The Family Medicine Consultant should be your first point of call

Most people in the UAE facing common medical ailments prefer to visit a specialist, meaning a doctor who specialises in a particular area of medicine, such as a gastroenterologist or an endocrinologist, instead of visiting first a Family Medicine Consultant, otherwise known as a general practitioner (GP). A common misconception is that by going to a Family Medicine Consultant first, people will waste their time and sometimes their money, when they could just directly go to a specialist. People think, “why go to a Family Medicine Consultant, when I can bypass them and go straight to the expert?”. People also commonly think that a Family Medicine Consultant is a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none.

The role of a Family Medicine Consultant goes far beyond treating a common cold or an ingrown toenail. In fact, a Family Medicine Consultant is qualified to recognise and diagnose all diseases, and treat them if they fall within the realms of primary care. He or she can provide comprehensive care for all patients of all ages and for the majority of diseases, excluding specific ones; for example, kidney disease.

Let us not forget that a Family Medicine Consultant is also the most qualified clinician within a clinical setting, fit to triage and refer the concerned patient to the right specialist. For example, King’s Family Medicine Consultants are also members of the Royal College of Practitioners, which is a highly distinctive membership body and guardian of standards for family doctors in the UK, standing for excellence in primary healthcare.

Whilst anyone can self-diagnose their ailment, it isn’t recommended. Research shows that 72% of people self-diagnose, however the chances of getting the diagnosis right are fairly low. The chances of unwanted patient outcomes also decrease, when a Family Medicine Consultant makes the assessment. According to the 20th report of the Council on Graduate Medical Education on Advancing Primary Care, increasing one primary care doctor per 10,000 people is estimated to result in a decrease of 5% in outpatient visits, 5.5% in inpatient admissions, 10.9% in ER visits, and 7.2% in surgeries, which combined translate into much improved patient outcomes.

Getting the right diagnosis from the start not only means that you get the right treatment as early as possible, but it also means that your body can start recovering as soon as possible too. An extra visit is, after all, not all that time-consuming; especially considering that you could save yourself multiple visits with incorrect specialists if you get the correct diagnosis from your Family Medicine Consultant to start with. And much more is at stake than your time and money: in the eventuality of a misdiagnosis, your condition could worsen, and your recovery may be slower. Long story short, your journey to better health could be much quicker and smoother with the help of a Family Medicine Consultant.

Think of your Family Medicine Consultant as your health champion. Not only will he or she be able to coordinate the care you need across specialists and work with you to make the right decisions post specialist visits, but he or she will also help you manage your condition from a holistic point of view. A Family Medicine Consultant can also monitor your overall health and help you achieve healthy lifestyle goals. Family Medicine Consultants will also take charge of educating you about prevention and reminding you of important health screenings and vaccinations.

Most importantly, if you use a Family Medicine Consultant as your health champion (first point of call) he or she will get to know your full medical history (and that of your family’s if they also visit them). This means they can make better informed decisions when prescribing you a treatment or advising you as they know you the best and have a complete picture of your health, including any past problems and health issues that may run in your family.

Last but not least, it’s important to remember that you are part of a greater health ecosystem, whose performance inevitably affects you. According to the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD), in Abu Dhabi people undertake on average 14 visits to solve a common health problem. It can be estimated that if this number was reduced by one visit, it could save insurance companies AED 600 million. When health insurance costs rise, employers often find themselves having to downgrade their employees’ health coverage or even change insurance providers, resulting sometimes in reduced health benefits for employees. This means people may no longer be able to visit their preferred doctor without incurring costs not covered by insurance.

Primary care is everyone’s ace. It optimises medical outcomes, makes for a smoother patient experience, and cuts medical costs for insurers and the government. The end result is a more effective and efficient system with the flexibility to redirect funding towards other public health priorities, such as cancer research, awareness campaigns for obesity or diabetes, or more medical infrastructure.

The next time you turn to Google to help you self-diagnose, consider calling your Family Medicine Consultant instead.