To say that all family medicine jobs are alike is to underestimate the potential of primary care. Among all medical specialties, none offers the type of diversity found in the primary care/family medicine arena. There are so many ways to work as a primary care practitioner that they are hard to quantify in a single article.
A recent survey conducted by the American Board of Family Medicine and the Association of Family Medicine Residents and Doctors illustrates the point perfectly. The survey sought to better understand the mindset of primary care doctors at least three years removed from residency so as to improve educational opportunities during residency. What they found was both encouraging and instructional.
DPC and Concierge Medicine
One of the survey respondents spoke of his own experience as a direct primary care (DPC) provider. DPC offers a range of primary care services to patients based on monthly or annual fee. The DPC model eliminates insurance companies by allowing patients to pay for their own services as they go.
Concierge medicine is a similar model but is largely considered to be more on the high-end of things. Concierge fees can be higher than DPC fees, but patients have virtually unlimited access to their doctors as a result.
Locum Tenens Practice
Another primary care option that seems to be growing in popularity is locum tenens practice. Growing numbers of doctors are following up their residencies with stints as locums. Some work as locums only for a year or two; others put in four or five years as locums; still others love the locum lifestyle so much they adopt it as a full-time career.
Locum family medicine is a little bit different in that doctors are continually transitioning from one assignment to the next. They are not able to develop the same kinds of long-lasting relationships employed doctors and private practice owners enjoy.
Practicing family medicine in a rural setting is vastly different from practicing in an urban area. Doctors who prefer rural medicine tend to talk of being able to treat multiple generations of the same family over many years. They talk about becoming integral members of their communities and getting to know everyone by name. For some, there is no better way to practice.
Medicine for Vulnerable Populations
Another survey respondent spoke of her experience as a family medicine practitioner for vulnerable populations. Her patients run the gamut from victims of human trafficking to people seeking asylum here in the U.S. This particular doctor opened her own clinic specifically to serve victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse. She provides primary care services to a group of patients who might otherwise struggle to get the care they need.
Wellness-Focused Family Medicine
As the outcome-focused model of medicine introduced by the Affordable Care Act is further explored and brought to maturity, some doctors are finding new ways to practice family medicine – including incorporating a new focus on overall wellness. Some of these primary care practitioners are embracing things like integrative medicine, naturopathic treatments, weight management and nutrition, and more.
Adopting a wellness mindset definitely changes the way a doctor offers primary care. Wellness is more about both prevention and an overall healthy lifestyle as opposed to the more traditional, reactionary approach to family medicine.
The options listed in this post do not even scratch the surface of possibilities for family medicine. Any new doctor considering family medicine as a specialty should really step back and take a good look. There are lots of ways to offer primary care in the modern era.