Family practice and general practice are the same. What is known as family practice in USA is known as general practice in European countries. The scope and responsibilities are the same even though the name is different.
According to the World Health Organization, family medicine is treating patients in the context of family and community. One of the basic principles of family medicine is to consider the patient and his surroundings as one before treating his illness.
Qualifications of Family Practitioner: Family practice physician is usually a doctor with a postgraduate family medicine qualification. A doctor needs to complete his internship and a few years of clinical experience to be eligible for the family medicine degree. In UK, this degree is awarded by a royal college. In India doctors need to complete a mandatory three year residency to qualify as family practitioners. The degree is an MD in family medicine. In USA, Family practitioners hold an MD or DO. They complete a three year family medicine residency to be eligible for board certification. This residency program covers internal medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, geriatrics and psychiatry. Doctors maintain their license through continuous professional education. In the USA, family practitioners may pursue fellowships in various fields. These qualifications are awarded under the scheme called “certificates of added qualifications”.
Family practitioner usually treats minor ailments and chronic conditions that can be managed outside of a hospital. Family practitioner has all the details of his patients down to the family history. Where he has no details, he builds up a good rapport with patients and gets the details written down.
In many countries, tertiary care hospitals have an open door policy. Patients can come and get treatment as they feel necessary even from specialists. But in some countries the situation is more streamlined, and a referral system is in place, to minimize overcrowding. The family practitioner sees the patient first and, if the condition is treatable at an office practice, there will be no further referrals. If the family doctor feels that the patient would benefit from specialist review, then the patient will be referred accordingly. In this situation, family practitioner has a big responsibility. In any situation, family practitioner delivers services such as routine checkups, immunization, follow-up and other preventive healthcare solutions.
Family practice is a consultation done in an office situated away from the hospital. The office is usually in a residential area where people in the area have easy access. A family practice office usually has a waiting area, consultation room, and an examination room. There is an assistant to the doctor to deal with appointments, cancellations, and maintaining the facilities at the office.