What is a General Physician?

What is a 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.

Roles of a General Physician Consultant

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.

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.

What makes a General Physician special?

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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