The main difference between a general practitioner and family doctors is that the former focuses on treating patients who visit the office and are not considered a special case. Family doctors and primary care physicians also have similar residency requirements and provide the same basic medical services to patients. Each completes a two-year bachelor’s program at an approved U.S. medical institution with an emphasis on anatomy, physiology and chemistry; four semesters of education at a community college; and two years at an approved vocational school.
Unlike primary care physicians, family practitioners are also allowed to provide specialized services. For example, pediatricians may refer to children’s hospitals, gynecologists can refer to women’s health centers, and obstetricians can refer to maternity facilities. Family doctors are also trained in nutrition and are considered experts on nutrition and diet. They are expected to ask questions about specific food groups and recommend the best ways to maintain a healthy diet.
Unlike primary care physicians, family doctors are not allowed to perform surgery. This means that a family practitioner is only able to perform basic procedures like cataract removal and breast exam. Family practitioners also work as part of an overall team to treat their patients. This means that they will usually work alongside physicians such as an anesthesiologist, radiologist and orthopedist.
Although all states require family practitioners to be board certified in order to practice medicine, many states do not require these requirements. In fact, many states do not even require that family practitioners have a physical examination or even have to have completed a bachelor’s degree. In addition, it is completely legal for a family physician to refuse to treat patients who are overweight, or to treat patients with diabetes or certain other health problems. All states require that the family practitioners provide a written referral from their primary care physicians or the patient’s primary care physician in order to treat a patient.
Most states allow family practitioners to practice independently. However, some states allow family practitioners to become a part of a larger network of health care providers such as a hospital or clinic network by acquiring a limited number of referral privileges from an approved provider. Many other states also require that these doctors maintain membership in a physician’s association or other similar organizations.
When choosing a family practitioner, make sure to choose a physician who works in a rural area or one whose primary concern is family medicine, not cosmetic surgery. If you are considering this option, be sure to take the time to research the medical background and reputation of each potential practitioner in your state and make sure that he or she is board certified in family medicine.