Ten tips for smooth communication with your family physician

woman and man are sitting and they have masks on their face

Photographer: Hendrik Osula

Sometimes, home remedies are not enough and we need professional medical help. In which cases should you contact our family physician and how can you ensure that your communication with the family medicine centre is smooth so that you receive the best advice and treatment?

Here are ten recommendations to follow when dealing with your family medicine centre.

1. When to see a family physician?

You should contact your family medicine centre if your health problems have not been relieved by home remedies but do not require urgent intervention (calling an ambulance or going to the emergency medicine department). People usually seek help from their family physician because of, for example, a long-standing or acute viral illness, a variety of aches and pains, or other conditions. People with chronic illnesses are also under the care of family physicians, and both children and adults can be vaccinated against infectious diseases at the family medicine centre.

2. How do I contact my family medicine centre?

Most people probably pick up the phone and call the family medicine centre, but more and more centres are also using e-services. If you use a computer or smartphone every day, check the website of your family medicine centre to see if they have a digital platform. There are different platforms, such as e-Perearstikeskus, Perearst24, LEIA, and Eelvisiit. To use the e-service, you first need to log in and then you can, for example, ask for a sick leave, order a repeat prescription, or ask for health advice. This is beneficial for both parties: the patient can record their concerns in detail at any time convenient to them, and the family medicine centre can better plan its schedule by referring the patient to a family physician, a family nurse, or another specialist working in the family medicine centre, depending on the urgency and specificity of the concern.

3. Take into account that you might not be able to see your family physician on the same day

Patients are offered an appointment to see a family doctor or nurse based on the severity of their health problems. If you have an acute health problem, you will be offered an appointment on the same day, and otherwise, within five working days.

4. Be on time!

If you have an appointment with your family physician, please be there on time. If you cannot make the appointment, let the family medicine centre know in advance.

5. You might be referred to a family nurse instead of your family physician

It is increasingly common for patients to be seen by a family nurse instead of a family physician. For many health problems, it is the responsibility of the family nurse to assess your health and give advice. If necessary, they will refer you to the family physician or another specialist.

6. Prepare for your appointment and be specific

Before your appointment, think through your health concerns thoroughly and write down the most important things. This way, you can discuss everything you need to know during the appointment and the appointment will not take longer than it should.

7. You might need several visits to the family medicine centre if you have several concerns

If you have more than one health concern, they may take longer to resolve. It may therefore be necessary to book several consecutive appointments – ask your family nurse or the receptionist on the phone. However, if you want to ask for advice about your family members, they should schedule a separate appointment – the family physician cannot resolve other people’s health problems during your appointment.

8. Trust the medics!

It is understandable that people often want to be thoroughly examined when they get sick. If your family physician does not think you need to undergo certain tests or examinations, please trust their decision. Trust your family physician and your family nurse!

9. Stick to the treatment guidelines prescribed for you

If your family physician has prescribed medicines and given you instructions, make sure you follow them. Medicines should be taken exactly as your family physician has instructed you to take them – do not increase or decrease the dosage on your own. For example, people tend to take blood pressure medication only when their blood pressure is high. However, they need to take the medicine every day for the effect to be continuous. If a medicine is causing side effects, contact your family physician to discuss alternatives – do not just stop taking it.

10. Be polite!

Please communicate with your family nurse and family physician during their working hours. Polite and respectful communication is important both ways.