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Field of medicine that stresses comprehensive primary health care, emphasizing the family unit. Practitioners must be familiar to some degree with medical specialties and, especially in health maintenance organizations, are now often gatekeepers who refer patients to specialists when necessary. Once virtually the only kind of medicine, family practice has been defined as a separate field only since increasing specialization in medicine led to a shortage of practitioners. A 1963 World Health Organization report stressing the need for medical education to focus on the patient as a whole throughout life led to specific programs in family practice.
Variants of FAMILY PRACTICE
family practice or family medicine or general practice
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on family practice, visit Britannica.com.