Do I need a family doctor?

Published January 22, 2019



Scott Lyons knows the importance of having a family physician for himself and his children. “I’ve been seeing a doctor annually for my entire life,” he says. “I’ve learned that being on the front side is a lot better than being on the back side.”

Lyons, who watched his father battle a host of health problems including diabetes, heart problems, asthma and prostate cancer, is committed to staying on top of his health to avoid being in the same predicament as his father.

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“My family doctors knows me and my family history so he knows what to watch for and can make sure I get the correct preventive tests at the right time,” he says. “And the same goes for my kids. We all have a great relationship with him.”                

You should think of your family physician as the coordinator of your care. He or she makes sure all of your general preventive care is handled — like annual exams, lab tests and preventive screenings. These are things that can easily fall by the wayside if no one is keeping track of them. The earlier potential health issues are caught, the more likely action can be taken to prevent them from becoming more serious or life-threatening. 

You should also get to know your doctor before you really need them. A good family doctor can take care of 85 percent to 95 percent of your health care needs. In fact, studies suggest that access to primary care through family physicians is associated with improved health outcomes, lower mortality rates, reduced emergency department use, decreased rates of preventable hospital admissions, less invasive and lower cost care and higher patient satisfaction.

Lyons can attest to this from personal experience. He and his daughter both have asthma, which often leads to sinus infections and other issues. “Our doctor is always on top of their medications before it becomes a bigger problem,” notes Lyons. Annual visits with one of his sons also led to the discovery of a hearing problem as well as an issue with his enzymes. “Our doctor was on top of both issues and he is doing well as a result,” says Lyons. “Another one of my sons has attention deficit disorder (ADD). His relationship with our doctor is so good that he sometimes shares things with the doctor that he won’t even share with my wife and me.”

Scheduling annual physicals, which will help your family doctor closely monitor your health, are important in both children and adults. Annual exams for children focus on not only on their physical health, but also the developmental, emotional and social aspects of their health. Your doctor can monitor your child's eyesight and hearing -- things that can affect their learning and development if there is a deficiency. Doctors also keep an eye on things like depression, attention deficit disorder, allergies, asthma, exercise, sleep and nutrition and immunizations. As your child reaches the teenage years, they will educate your child about safety, healthy lifestyle habits, drugs, alcohol, STDs and depression and continue health screenings based on your family history.