Raghavendra M.S., Bangalore-based Dean of College of Family Physicians of India, the academic wing of the Academy of Family Physicians of India, and Head, Department of Preventive Healthcare and DNB (Medicine) Coordinator, Sagar Hospitals, spoke to The Hindu over phone on the changing concept of family care in India.

The college is entrusted with the responsibility of standardisation, accreditation of practice, uniform training promotion, and family medicine curriculum development.

Excerpts from the interview:

Whom do you call a family doctor?

Traditionally, the doctors to whom families visited regularly were called family doctors. You went to the same doctors always irrespective of his/her specialisation. The doctors would give primary treatment and refer you to a specialist for further care. That has changed now. Family medicine stops at your consultant's room, where diagnosis is made.

Can you given an example?

A patient with a fracture is sent to an orthopaedic by the traditional family doctor. A trained family physician – I would rather call him/her a trained primary care physician – will take care of him till he is cured at his clinic.

This could make the treatment less expensive too.

How many such doctors do we have now?

About 2,000 to 3,000 in India and 500 in Karnataka.

Are they going to replace the MBBS doctors who have small clinics in our neighbourhood?

A: No new MBBS degree holder is opening small clinics.

To get MBBS degree, they spend Rs. 50 lakh to Rs. 2 crore. Opening a small clinic and charging Rs. 30 to Rs. 40 for treatment and medicines makes no sense for him. Even the clinics run by those who have passed MBBS 30 years ago are not getting many patients now. Patients are increasingly going to corporate hospitals. People's purchasing capacity has gone up. The bar has been raised.

Will the trained family physicians open small clinics in our neighbourhood?

They will. But not the small clinics. The era of 10'x10' clinics is gone.

How soon will that happen?

In just three or four years. Today, insurance companies are controlling the health care sector. Insurance companies, most of which are partnered by American companies, are trying to replicate what is happening in the U.S.

What is the qualification required?

Those wanting to be family physicians will have to pass the DNB (Diplomate of National Board) in Family Medicine.

The Board's website has a list of institutions offering the course.

Is the course popular?

It is. In the recent counselling to allot the medical seats, the family medicines got over first.

Medical Council of India wants to incorporate family medicine in MBBS itself…

It is a stupidity. Earlier MBBS took 5 years to complete. They increased it to six years and six months. Now they want to make it 8 years.

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