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The Vanishing Family Doctor--An Editorial

By Anonymous
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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

If you live in a small town you will nod your head as soon as you read this. The family doctor you grew up with is shutting down his or her office and no one is taking his or her place. Small medical practices where the doctor knew you, your parents, and all your brothers and sisters (before they moved away) are evaporating. They are being replaced by that clinic a few exits down the freeway – or further – where younger doctors in white coats bustle around and have an array of high tech equipment down the hall.

The doctor who knew you and knew your family, the doctor who always lived down the street and you bumped into at the supermarket – they have retired, left town or sold out. And the result is that the high touch connection with a doctor who really knew you is fading. After all, medicine is a business. With lower reimbursement from insurance companies, more complicated treatments and tests, and an aging population with an array of health concerns, the local family doctor either can’t keep up or the money and long hours aren’t worth it.

So more and more of them are “going fishing.” And this means changes for you.

As noted above, the folks at the gleaming new clinic you go to down the road will not know you very well or at all. They won’t know that your grandma died of lung cancer or two people in your family have diabetes. You will have to take on more. You will have to detail your family history, rattle off all the medications you take, tell them about your allergies (again), and, when you have a concern, do some research and speak up for yourself.

The care, in the end, may be fine – probably will be. It’s the new age of medicine run by corporations. Trying to be efficient and profitable when health care costs are skyrocketing.

But more often now doctors don’t touch you. Literally, it’s the machines that do. The family doctor you grew up with is not there to give you a hug or ask about Aunt Susie. They’ve retired. It had just become too hard. You miss them, and they probably miss you.

Medical progress, I guess, but with a little less high touch, less convenience and familiarity, and a little less heart.

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This is an interesting observation. It's true, small family practices are being replaced by multi-disciplined practices with 20 doctors on the staff roster. You can expect to see a NP when you visit the office, and only see the doctor if it's serious.
I grew up with a family doctor that delivered me, my brother and sisters, and all of my sister's children. We knew the doctor, and he knew us. Now I found it hard to find a GP I could actually get in to see when needed. Often I would opt for urgent care to avoid the month-long wait to be seen for a sinus infection. The only reason I ended up really looking for a GP was at the urging by my OB/GYN.
The practice of medicine is evolving. Nice article.

April 25, 2011 - 7:03am
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