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General Physician

General Physicians are highly trained specialists who provide a range of non-surgical health care to adult patients. They care for difficult, serious or unusual medical problems and continue to see the patient until these problems have resolved or stabilised.

Much of their work takes place with hospitalised patients and most general physicians also see patients in their consulting rooms.

Their broad range of expertise differentiates General Physicians from other specialists who limit their medical practice to problems involving only one body system or to a special area of medical knowledge.

Over View

A general practitioner is a family doctor or physician. He provides diagnosis and care for patients in routine cases and usually refers people to specialists when they need specific types of treatment.


General physicians are consultants who care for patients with special or difficult problems. General physicians only see patients who are referred to them by other doctors, usually by the patient's own general practitioner.

Work environment

General practitioners work in private practice in most cases, unlike many other medical specialists who work either in private practice or hospital settings. This means the family doctor is more often self-employed. Some physicians work in multi-doctor clinics or are a part of a network of doctor offices. Their locations are normally small, stand-alone offices or an area in a larger office building. Practitioners normally have a basic staff of receptionists and nurses who assist them.

Global Approach: Whether the referral identifies one health problem or many, the general physician's assessment is always comprehensive. This global approach enables problems to be detected and diagnostic possibilities to be considered which might otherwise be missed.

Complex Care: General physicians are especially trained to care for patients with complex illnesses, in which the diagnosis may be difficult. The general physician's broad training provides expertise in diagnosis and treatment of problems affecting different body systems in a patient. They are also trained to deal with social and psychological impact of disease.

Procedures: General physicians are trained to carry out a variety of medical procedures for the diagnosis and management of patients with severe and complex illnesses.

Diagnosis: General physicians have special training in the usefulness, limitations and costs of most diagnostic tests. General physicians use diagnostic tests logically, safely and effectively to investigate difficult diagnostic problems.

Treatment: General physicians are trained in the critical analysis of research reports and drug industry claims about new treatments. They are knowledgeable about complex interactions of medications given simultaneously to treat multiple illnesses in a patient. The general physician has special expertise in making treatment decisions to help patients with complex and serious illnesses.

Pre- and Post-operative assessment: General physicians are frequently asked to review patients before surgery. They advise surgeons of a patient's risk status and can recommend appropriate management to minimise the risk of the operation. They can also assist in postoperative care and ongoing medical problems or complications.


When the general practitioner is directly involved in a treatment plan, it is normally for more simple cases. Directing patients on self-care and prescribing treatments are two common ways family doctors actively treat patients. He might, for instance, advise a patient suffering from back pain to use a heating pad for a certain amount of time each day. He may also prescribe a simple pain medication to help with relief.

Ongoing Care

For patients dealing with chronic or ongoing health issues, the general practitioner helps to manage ongoing care. Some patients need regular check-ups so the doctor can monitor their conditions for improvement or decline. Others need reassessment on regular medications. Family doctors typically help with prescription maintenance. When necessary, the practitioner makes requests for blood tests or other lab work to support an initial diagnosis and to reassess the patient's condition.

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The unique combination of knowledge, training and skills distinguishes general physicians from other medical specialists and general practitioners. Through a rigorous and comprehensive training program, general physicians are:

broadly educated to deal with the entire range of the patient's medical problems

thorough, logical and scientific in their approach to providing expert diagnosis

able to assess and choose drugs and other medical therapies wisely to prevent and treat disease able to care for patients as whole people, not just body systems, and

highly skilled in clinical decision making and cost effective use of dwindling health care resources

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What is the difference between a Physician and a Specialist?

All Physicians are Specialists, yet not all Specialists are Physicians, for example, a Surgeon is a specialist in surgery that has trained with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

You may hear a Physician called a Specialist, a Specialist Physician or Consultant Physician.

What is the difference between a Physician and a General Practitioner (GP)?

Physicians complete at least six years of additional training in a medical specialisation after their basic medical degree and internship.

A GP may also undertake additional medical training, but does so through the Royal Australasian College of General Practitioners.

In some countries (United States), the term Physician is interchangeable with medical practitioner. This is not the case in Australia and New Zealand.

Where do Physicians work?

Physicians work in different settings, including hospitals, private practices and community medical centres. Physicians may also focus on research or medical administration.

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