National Doctors’ Day 2021: Family doctors on the frontline

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– T. Ravikumar, Medical Superintendent, Government Medical College and ESI Hospital, Coimbatore

National Doctors’ Day 2021 Wishes. Doctors always play an important part in everybody’s life. Whenever we fall sick we rush to a doctor and since COVID-19 pandemic erupted, the doctors have become heroes and superheroes.

Recently the world has learned how doctors are contributing towards society. Doctors are among those who are constantly fighting for the lives of infected people while the majority of us remain indoors due to lockdown. Doctors are trying their best to deal with the pandemic and doing their best for the recovery of the patients. They are truly the greatest heroes of the pandemic but all of the time.

India celebrates the National Doctors’ Day every year on July 1. The day is celebrated to honor legendary physician and the second Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy.

India has grown by leaps and bounds in the medical field. Doctors’ day is a day to show our gratitude to all those who are treating us selflessly in the time of need and tirelessly working for the health of their patients.

Every year doctor’s day has a theme and in 2021 the theme of National Doctors’ Day is “family doctors on the frontline”.

In an increasingly complex health care system, it is even more important than before to have a family physician who knows about your health conditions, your lifestyle, and your sensitivities about seeking healthcare so that they can guide you better for wellness and help you make right decisions during the time of sicknesses.

Healthcare systems in the West have recognized the importance of having a primary physician for every person in his/her healthcare journey, to cut health care costs, from unnecessary diagnostic procedures, and for continuity of care.

Many healthcare systems in the world have made the following things mandatory: referral from a physician for specialist consultation, keeping the physician informed regarding every hospitalization and important touch points of the person in the health care journey.

Many doctors lost their lives due to corona as they are front line warriors. They save thousands of lives and in the fight against the deadly disease, they get infected with heavy virus load due to continuous exposure to COVID-19.

The role of family doctors during COVID-19 is much more than the consultants because a consultant’s role starts only after admission. If a patient develops complications of COVID-19, the first contact person in COVID-19 is always the family doctor.

In the past, a family doctor stood next to the father in the family. A family consults the family doctor for everything and the first invitation in any family function is reserved for their family doctor. Due to many reasons, the importance of family doctor is forgotten.

When every other doctor closed their clinic during the pandemic, the only doctors who have seen patients without any hesitation are family doctors. Apart from health issues, family doctors are familiar with all happenings in family – births, weddings, and deaths.

While many diseases and specialties emerged in the last few decades, the role of the family doctor was undermined. Because of this important missing link, we are seeing some gaps in healthcare delivery. With the increasing complexity of health care, people often feel lost in multispecialty healthcare settings.

Family doctors can treat infants, toddlers, children, teenagers and adults. It is not uncommon for a family medicine doctor to see their patients for decades of their lives. Since these physicians have the skills to treat a wide range of medical conditions, they can be your primary care doctor at any point in your life. This helps you build a great relationship with your physician that will last a lifetime.

When a doctor is able to treat you for years of your life, they develop a keen understanding of you and your medical history.  This helps your doctor to make accurate diagnosis and monitor you more closely for any changes or red flags in your health screenings.

In addition to keeping track of your medical history, a family doctor can understand what is happening in their patients’ lives. They are the first contact persons, they also are there to help you navigate through chronic medical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and arthritis.

They can also treat your acute medical conditions like injuries and many infections, help you come out of stressful times, and keep you well throughout.

Sometimes issues arise that require consultation with or care from a specialist.  These can include serious issues like heart disease and cancer.  When you or someone in your family develops one of these conditions, your family physician can find someone who fits your exact needs and personality.  

It should come as no surprise that consulting the family doctors saves money for individuals.

  • Make an appointment at least once a year if you are above 25 years of age and once in 6 months if you are above 35 years of age. Do not think that your visits to your personal doctor are a waste of money. In fact, they decrease your healthcare costs in the long run.
  •  Do not get laboratory tests done without a doctor’s advice. Do not draw conclusions from the lab investigations. A lab test report is not of much value without the interpretation of the test in the context of your health profile.
  •  Understand your doctor’s timings and the appropriate means your doctor can be contacted.
  • WhatsApp message is not a professional way of communicating with your doctor. Errors can happen due to missing medical information.
  •  Disclose the medical information to your doctor without any inhibitions.
  •  Keep your consultation records, lab test reports, and imaging reports safe and in chronological order and take them to your appointments.
  •  Do not get medications from medical stores with old prescriptions. Get the renewal of prescriptions from your primary doctor; this is a chance to both review the need for the medications from time to time and stop the medications that are not indicated anymore.
  •  After getting discharged from hospital, contact your personal doctor and have a follow-up in about 1 week to 10 days so that he/she is kept informed about the major events that happened in your healthcare and review your medical record.
  • Through a good doctor-patient relationship, a patient can reap the benefits and the physician can find a purpose. But remember that it takes time to build and earn.
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