Why you need a family doctor

April 12, 2015 | Physician Stories

When Betty and Orville moved to south Edmonton 30 years ago, they knew they had to find a new family doctor. They consulted with friends and family in the area and opted for a doctor at the Capilano Medical Clinic.

As the years crept up on them, the couple began to experience a series of health problems. Back surgery followed by lung surgery caused Betty to take a disability pension and leave her job. Orville managed to overcome his struggle with lung and bladder cancers, but suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in his later years. He passed away in 2007, but Betty continues to enjoy the quality of her life.

Through it all, their family doctor has provided the kind of care you can only get from someone who is completely familiar with your health history. “I don’t have to explain anything to him,” said Betty. “He asks about my back, and he knows the prescriptions I need. He knows my history, and I don’t have to start from square one over and over again.”

It is this continuity of care people get from a family doctor that isn’t available from a walk-in clinic or trips to the emergency room, says Dr. Brian Ritchie, whose office is at the Ermineskin Medical Clinic in Century Park. “It’s about experience and knowing your patients. A lot of primary care is follow-up. If you see the same physician, they get to know you and you get to know them.”

Dr. Jim Adams of Sherwood Park agrees. “Your family doctor is the person you can trust, who knows you and your health care and can help you through the maze out there,” he said. “If you walk into a quick stop place, you’re likely going to see a different doctor each time. They don’t know you.”

Statistics indicate that a physician takes seven minutes of the appointment time to get to know you before they can determine what’s wrong with you. If they see 30 patients a day, it could mean a loss of over 200 minutes.

“We humans are complex,” said Dr. Adams. “If you have a family doctor who has known you for years, he has the whole context. He understands the whole situation. If you’re using emergency or a walk in clinic for your medical needs, there is no continuity of care, so your treatment quality may be reduced.”