Family medicine (FM), formerly family practice (FP), is a medical specialty devoted to comprehensive health care for people of all ages; the specialist is named a family physician or family doctor. In Europe the discipline is often referred to as general practiceand a practitioner as a General Practice Doctor or GP; this name emphasizes the holistic nature of this specialty, as well as its roots in the family. Family practice is a division of primary care that provides continuing and comprehensive health care for the individual and family across all ages, genders, diseases, and parts of the body; family physicians are often primary care physicians. It is based on knowledge of the patient in the context of the family and the community, emphasizing disease prevention and health promotion. According to the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), the aim of family medicine is to provide personal, comprehensive, and continuing care for the individual in the context of the family and the community. The issues of values underlying this practice are usually known as primary care ethics.
Family physicians in the United States may hold either an M.D. or a D.O. degree. Physicians who specialize in family medicine must successfully complete an accredited three- or four-year family medicine residency in the United States in addition to their medical degree. They are then eligible to sit for a board certification examination, which is now required by most hospitals and health plans. American Board of Family Medicine requires its Diplomates to maintain certification through an ongoing process of continuing medical education, medical knowledge review, patient care oversight through chart audits, practice-based learning through quality improvement projects and retaking the board certification examination every 7 to 10 years. The American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians requires its Diplomates to maintain certification and undergo the process of recertification every 8 years.
The term "family medicine" is used in many European and Asian countries, instead of "general medicine" or "general practice". In Sweden, certification in family medicine requires five years working with a tutor, after the medical degree. InIndia, those who want to specialize in family medicine must complete a three-year family medicine residency, after their medical degree (MBBS). They are awarded either a D.N.B. or an M.D. in family medicine. Similar systems exist in other countries.
Family physicians deliver a range of acute, chronic and preventive medical care services. In addition to diagnosing and treating illness, they also provide preventive care, including routine checkups, health-risk assessments, immunization and screening tests, and personalized counseling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Family physicians also manage chronic illness, often coordinating care provided by other subspecialists. Many American Family Physicians deliver babies and provide prenatal care. In the U.S., family physicians treat more patients with back pain than any other physician subspecialist, and about as many as orthopedists and neurosurgeons combined.
Family medicine and family physicians play a very important role in the healthcare system of a country. In the U.S., for example, nearly one in four of all office visits are made to family physicians. That is 208 million office visits each year — nearly 83 million more than the next largest medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty
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