There is often confusion in understanding the difference between internal medicine, family medicine and primary care. On the face of it, they seem to be one and the same. People are not all one-size-fits-all, and neither are their needs. Nor are physicians. People have unique needs and should choose a doctor that best fits those needs.
Primary care is a role and not a specialty. Physicians trained in different specialties can offer primary care services: pediatrics, women’s health, or geriatrics, for example.
Internists or internal medicine physicians too are qualified primary care physicians. But they only focus on the diagnosis, treatment, and care of adults, 18 years or older across the spectrum of health and illness. Some focus their practice on hospital medicine, medical education and/or research. Family physicians, on the other hand, treat adults and children.
The goal of the internal medicine doctor is health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment of both acute and chronic illness.
The central person in internal medicine is the adult patient as a whole individual. They work to establish and maintain a trusting relationship to create the best plan for your health. This includes age-appropriate health maintenance through routine monitoring, immunizations, and screenings.
They provide counseling, patient education, and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses. They promote healthy lifestyle choices. The internist is the focal point of a patient’s health care needs. They offer continuity of care that extends from their office to specialists, to hospitalizations, and anywhere the patient requires medical attention.
Internists are skilled diagnosticians, adept at figuring out complex symptoms to identify both common and rare illnesses. They are often known as the “doctor’s doctor” or “medical detectives.”
General Internal Medicine
Many internists begin practicing upon completing basic internal medicine training. They practice “general internal medicine” and are referred to as “general internists.” They handle the broad and comprehensive spectrum of illnesses that affect adults. They provide primary care to patients over the duration of their adult lives.
General internists practice in different locations. Some, known as “hospitalists,” may focus on caring for patients in the hospital setting. Others combine both outpatient and inpatient care. General internists may practice in settings such as rehabilitation centers and long-term care facilities as well.
Internal Medicine Subspecialties
Internists may take additional training to “subspecialize” in a more focused area of internal medicine. This training, known as a “fellowship” usually requires several additional years beyond the basic three-year internal medicine residency.
Physicians with additional training in a particular area of internal medicine are frequently referred to by their area of subspecialty –cardiologists, pulmonologists etc. They have all undergone the same basic internal medicine training and are also considered as “internists.”
The subspecialty training in a particular medical area is comprehensive and qualifies them to manage complex medical issues and perform advanced procedures.
Conditions Treated by Internal Medicine Physicians
Internal medicine practitioners focus on the whole body. They treat both internal and external conditions. They diagnose and treat a wide range of medical conditions. A doctor of internal medicine may be employed by a hospital or work out of his own clinic or office.
Subspecialties of internal medicine include:
Arthritis and joint conditions
Allergy and immunology
Cardiology (heart diseases)
Endocrinology (hormone disorders)
Hematology (blood disorders)
Gastroenterology (diseases of the digestive system)
Nephrology (kidney diseases)
Pulmonology (lung disorders)
Rheumatology (arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders)
ENT – ear, nose and throat
Sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction (ED)
Weight loss and management
This exhaustive area of medicine basically includes any illness that affects adults.
The role of the internist is to manage your overall health, promote a healthy lifestyle and recommend steps to prevent illness, and treat illnesses. Your internist is your “go-to” when you have health concerns because he knows you best. He can provide most of your medical needs.
At Advanced Medical, PA, we pride ourselves in providing quality healthcare in both internal medicine and primary care. To learn more about us and the services we offer, or to schedule a visit, call us at (561) 434-1935 to request an appointment.