From an outsider's perspective, both GPs and FPs appear to take a similar role when it comes to managing acute and chronic diseases, advocating healthy lifestyles, and looking after patients in a primary care setting. So what's the difference between a GP and an FP?
What is a GP?
Any doctor can set up a clinic after obtaining a medical degree in a medical school recognised by the Ministry of Health (MOH), and completing his or her public service bond. If they have not received any postgraduate training in primary care, they will be considered a GP.
So, how do GPs become FPs?
The Graduate Diploma of Family Medicine (GDFM) is the basic requirement for FP accreditation. It is a part-time course that involves in-depth workshops and case discussions. In addition, doctors can enrol in full-time training as part of the Family Medicine Residency Programme, which allows them to rotate through different hospital departments and polyclinics. Doctors who complete this programme will be awarded their Master of Medicine (MMED) in Family Medicine. And that’s not all – FPs can also attain higher qualifications and professional development through a fellowship with the College of Family Physicians Singapore (CPFS).
In summary, you can be assured that any FP you see has gone through rigorous vocational training!
What’s the benefit of seeing a doctor trained in family medicine?
Although primary care doctors are usually generalists, there are some doctors who may have special interest in certain fields, such as dermatology, geriatrics, occupational medicine and palliative medicine, to name a few. But all primary care doctors are well trained in treating common chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and asthma. You can also consult either a GP or FP about acute illnesses involving different organ systems, such as the common cold, painful joints, eczema, etc.
So, what’s the benefit of seeing an FP? Not only are they capable of managing a wide variety of ailments across all age groups, they focus on treating each patient holistically. You’ll be under the care of a medical professional who focuses on all aspects of your life, and takes into account how your lifestyle influences your overall wellbeing.
When it comes to managing illness, FPs recognise that what happens at home and work can affect your health. That’s why they will always consider your socio-economic and occupational background when it comes to both diagnosis and treatment.
Regularly visiting the same FP will also help to ensure continuity of care and a long-term doctor-patient relationship. Your FP keeps track of your health history, which helps them to formulate treatment plans and support you through the journey towards recovery. Most of the time, they won’t just treat you, but your entire family. Over time, they will get to know more about your family history and any recurring health issues. This can result in more comprehensive care for everyone in the family.
Depending on your needs, you can choose a doctor trained in family medicine to be your healthcare provider. Find a clinic near you.
Article contributed by Dr Chew Chun Yang, family physician at Parkway Shenton, Serangoon