The Vanishing Family Physician

27 Aug

When I fill out medical forms, they always ask, “Who is your physician?” And the answer is “I don’t have one.” Today, the idea of having a personal physician who consults and follows up on your treatment is dated and laughable. Having worked in healthcare, I now understand why.

In fact, I see my chiropractor more than I ever see an MD. Maybe I’m just healthier than most, but the last family physician I saw was two years ago… and that was in some snooty-fruity holistic practice which could have been family practice and could have been something else. And I certainly didn’t see the same person twice – in fact, the guy I initially met retired the next year.

So what you have are not personal physicians, but networks. Maybe if I had a chronic condition, this would be important for me to check in with them on a regular basis, but a physical once a year? Why bother? I can go to urgent care and get that done… and get it done now. Family practices are like an outpatient facility; you need an appointment and you usually have to wait for two weeks for the next opening. Why do I need to wait that long? And then, because the medical profession is so specialized, I’ll need a referral to a specialist. Again, I can get the referral at urgent care.

The reason why this bugged me was because of a radio ad I heard that says, “You can keep your same physician even if you switch networks!” Well, that might have meant something before my family practice became a group. As mentioned before, I rarely see the same physician twice. Oh, I go to the same building, and they have all my same records, but it’s never the same person. Maybe it’s important to keep that same facility, because transferring files from one health system to the next is not an exact science yet. (Trust me, that’s what I did for a living.)

Who are all these people behind me?

The reason for this change is simple: litigation. If you’re a single doctor out in a small town… oh, let’s say Morrison, Illinois… your malpractice insurance is going to cost X. You’re going to get sued. It’s like riding a motorcycle; it’s not if you’re going to have an accident, but when. So if I can get a couple more doctors to share the cost with me, that’s X divided by the doctors in my practice. And hey, that means we can rotate the appointments, rotate who’s on call on the weekends, and I can have a regular life!

However, having a joint practice is still a pain in the butt, since you have to keep track of rent, utilities, paperwork from the state… who needs this? Meanwhile, Pleasant Sounding Health Network wants to buy my practice and have me work for them. They’ll take care of the business end… all I have to do is do what I love… which is practice medicine. Why wouldn’t I want that?!

So the personal physician has disappeared… at least for me. Am I off-base? Did I forget an important clue in my rant? Tell me in the comments below!

8 Responses to “The Vanishing Family Physician”

  1. Mason Bushell August 27, 2020 at 9:28 am #

    this is the same in the UK. years ago you had just one doctor for much of your life. Now everytime you need to see one, its someone different.

  2. Hannah Gandhi August 27, 2020 at 9:50 am #

    I’ve rarely come across anyone, where I live in the U.K. who has had the same physician as well…it seems as though they are too busy and we often get referred to multiple people. Which also I imagine would see a drip in quality of service v a doctor who is loyal and dedicated throughout the process.

  3. Hannah Gandhi August 27, 2020 at 9:50 am #


  4. Karla Ruth Smith August 27, 2020 at 12:54 pm #

    My parents; elderly, small town Arizona still have a primary care physician although I’m not sure what he does except send them to a billion specialists in Flagstaff.

  5. joliesattic August 27, 2020 at 10:39 pm #

    I’ve been fortunate in that I have a GP through my group and I get to see him most of the time. When I got pawned off to zoom or phone calls, I pitched a fit and threatened to go elsewhere. They now connect me generally right away. But yes, family doctors have faded away. They’ve been talking here about doctors making house calls because of Covid, but that was just a thought that didn’t last.


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