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Return of the family doctor

A new PG diploma in family medicine could finally offer a specilised qualification in this so-far ignored discipline

education Updated: Jan 11, 2012 11:07 IST
Garima Upadhyay

The idea of providing comprehensive and continuous care prompted this young man to take up family medicine. Meet Ravikumar Kulkarni, a young family physician who has started practicing recently. So far, his experience has been quite fulfilling accruing from the rewards intrinsic to patient care. The challenges, of course, have been there since there was always something new to learn and improvise upon, Kulkarni says.

In its Vision 2015 report, published in March 2011, the Medical Council of India (MCI) highlighted the need to “increase the availability of qualified family physicians.” The recent announcement launching a postgraduate diploma in family medicine only strengthens the body’s resolve in reaching its objective.

Dr Santanu Chattopadhyay, founder and CEO NationWide Primary Healthcare, says, “It is definitely a welcome change. Since Independence, India has focussed mainly on specialty/super specialty medical education, resulting in an increased number of specialist and super-specialist doctors. Unfortunately, unlike developed countries, India has by far not concentrated on improving the family medicine concept, which essentially creates a base for a more sustainable healthcare model. MCI’s move to offer a three-year post graduate programme in family medicine is a boon for the Indian healthcare industry.”

Ask him how students would benefit from this move in getting better employement opportunities, and he says, “According to recent studies, only 20% of medical graduates get an opportunity to take up specialised courses due to the highly competitive selection process and limited seats. With this course becoming available, we can look forward to better career opportunities for aspiring general physicians (GPs). At the same time, the government needs to look into a system of creating employment for these qualified GPs, as most self-employed GPs are not able to earn a decent living.”

With better employment opportunities, the introduction of the course will also greatly help “medical students get a specialised degree in family medicine,” adds Kulkarni.

What does a family physician do?
A traditional family physician is more reactive in approach, just treating patients who choose to visit his clinic. A modern-day family physician, on the other hand, adopts a more proactive approach, acting as the health manager by taking over the onus of a family's overall well-being in his/her hand. S/he maintains patients’ medical records, monitors their health, sends reminders, drives compliance, promotes health screening and preventive measures, and ensures better health outcomes.

What does it mean for patients?
* Better access to affordable healthcare services
* Better healthcare outcomes as GPs are the first point of contact, curbing unwanted specialist visits
* Avoid unnecessary set of medical investigations

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