What is a General Physician?
General Physicians are Medical Specialists trained in a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic skills.
The role of a General Physician is usually the diagnosis and management of problems that are complex and difficult. A General Practitioner (GP, Local Doctor, Family Doctor) may refer a patient to a Specialist General Physician if in-depth review is necessary. A Specialist who deals with a specific body system may refer a patient to a General Physician when a diagnosis is thought to involve multiple body systems.
General Physicians are involved an acute care of hospitalised patients. Most general physicians also see patients in their consulting rooms. The General Physician will continue to see the patient until the problem is resolved or stabilised. Once the complex health issues are managed, or a plan of management is established, a General Physician may discharge the patient to the General Practitioner’s care again.
What makes a Specialist General Physician special?
Their broad range of expertise differentiates General Physicians from other Specialists who limit their medical practice to problems involving one body system or to a special area of medical knowledge (Cardiologists, Gastroenterologists, Immunologists, Endocrinologists etc.). A General Physician integrates all subspecialties of health care, for improvement of a patient’s overall health, and to decrease the risk of adverse health events in all areas of health in the future.
Comprehensive and Global Approach:
Regardless of whether the patient referred for one complex medical problem or many, a General physician's assessment is always comprehensive. This global approach enables problems to be detected and diagnostic possibilities to be considered which might otherwise be missed.
Their goal is treating the patient as ‘a whole person’.
One seemingly simple complaint may have many different causes, from different body systems. Some may have serious health consequences if not diagnoses and treated early. Likewise, one health issues may cause many different (sometimes subtle) symptoms in various body systems. General physicians are especially trained to care for patients with complex illnesses, in which the diagnosis may be difficult. Often, one health problem may affect the diagnosis or management of another problem. The General Physician's broad training provides expertise in diagnosis and treatment of problems affecting different organ systems.
They are also trained to deal with social and psychological impact of disease. Often Psychosocial issues have a large influence on a person’s overall wellbeing. General Physicians are trained to identify these links.
General Physicians have special training in the usefulness, limitations and costs of most diagnostic tests. Some diagnostic tests may cause risks to the patient, cost financially, yet yield results that are difficult to interpret or irrelevant to the patient’s current health situation. Some may not change the health outcomes. General Physicians use diagnostic tests logically, safely and effectively to investigate difficult diagnostic problems when the potential benefit outweighs the risks of having them.
Patients often use multiple medications. The list may grow substantially as they get older and when new diagnoses are made. The interaction of medication with body, multiple health problems and with each other is complex. The usefulness of medication at different stages of life always needs to be reviewed. A General Physician is trained to assess complexity of medication aiming at reducing the burden of side effect and maximise the benefit to the patient.
General physicians are trained in the critical analysis of research reports and drug industry claims about new treatments.
Pre-operative and Post-operative assessment:
When patients undergo surgical procedures, their existing medical problems and risks need to be managed the best way possible, in order to avoid complications. General physicians are frequently asked to review patients before surgery. They advise surgeons of a patient's risk status and can recommend appropriate management to minimise the risk of the operation. They can also assist in postoperative care and managing ongoing medical problems or complications.
General physicians are trained to carry out a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic medical procedures. As their field of expertise is broad, they sometimes choose a special ‘area of interest’ in Medicine.
Does the Medical care stop at a General Physician?
While the General Physicians manage the complex ‘whole person health’, when it is necessary, they often involve other Specialists who deal with a specific organ system or a specific area of health. The reason may be a diagnostic question or need for a special therapy or intervention. They may directly refer a patient to another Specialist or request the GP to do so. Sometimes, patients are referred to Allied Health Specialists such a s Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Exercise Physiologists.