A family practitioner providing health care to a child.

What’s the Difference? Internal Medicine vs. Family Medicine

It’s important to know what doctor to go to when you need healthcare services…but with all of the specialities out there, it can get overwhelming. To make things even more confusing, there are subtle differences between types of primary care providers – especially when it comes down to who and what they treat. So, internal medicine vs. family medicine providers: what’s the difference and who should you see?

What Are Primary Care Physicians?

Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) are your number one point of contact when it comes to coordinating healthcare services. They’re who you see for regular check-ups, preventative care, and diagnosing common medical conditions.

There are several types of PCPs:

  • Pediatricians
  • Internal medicine doctors/internists
  • Family medicine doctors and family practice physicians
  • Geriatrics
  • Primary care doctors
  • OB-GYNs (obstetrics and gynecology)

While these healthcare professionals all perform similar services for their patients, they are also different types of doctors who provide different types of services.

What Are Family Medicine Doctors?

Family medicine physicians differ from internists due to their varied training, range of patients, and services provided.

What Training Do Family Medicine Doctors Have?

It takes ten years or more to become a family medicine physician. First, they have to complete undergraduate school before going to four years of medical school. After medical school, they then complete a three-year residency.

During their residency program, family medicine doctors are trained in different medical care services for a broad range of patients. They learn a little bit of everything – including pediatrics, gynecology, and even psychiatry.

What Patients Do Family Medicine Doctors See?

As the name implies, family practitioners can treat the entire family, providing outpatient services for patients of all ages.

Family medicine physicians are some of the most common kinds of primary care physicians, and they often form long-term bonds with patients and their family members. In many cases, their main focus is to help patients manage chronic conditions and medical issues.

What Do Family Medicine Doctors Treat?

There are several reasons to book an appointment with a family medicine provider. Family medicine practitioners focus on whole-person wellness for their patients and help with common health issues, such as infectious diseases. Sometimes, family practices also provide women’s health or mental health services.

Family medicine doctors complete screenings for concerns like high blood pressure or hypertension while also providing care for chronic illnesses like gastroesophageal reflux disease or diabetes and thyroid disorders. They can also make referrals to other healthcare professionals for more specialized health conditions when needed.

What Are Internal Medicine Doctors?

Internists are a little more specialized in what and who they treat (as compared to family medicine doctors), and some have subspecialties that require additional training.

What Training Do Internists Have?

Internists require at least eleven years of training. First, they obtain a bachelor’s degree and then they attend medical school for four years. Similar to family medicine doctors, they complete a three-year residency, but their residency program has a more specific focus.

During their residency, they address several aspects of adult medicine, such as cardiology, neurology, endocrinology, and infectious diseases. After their residency, they may go on to study different subspecialties in these areas, as well as rheumatology, gastroenterology, or pulmonology.

What Types of Patients Do Internists Treat?

An internal medicine physician sees adult patients, often in an inpatient hospital setting, though some operate out of their own office and provide outpatient care when applicable. Family medicine doctors are great at taking care of the well-being of a broad range of patients, whereas internists are experts at more complex healthcare issues that occur in our bodies as we age.

Some internists may take on a subspecialty of adolescent care or pediatrics, but for the most part, they are trained to provide healthcare to adults.

What Issues Do Internists Treat?

Like family medicine doctors, internists can diagnose and treat chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and infectious diseases (ex. pneumonia). They are also known to treat neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Find the Primary Care You Need

If you’re looking for a doctor to keep you and your family members healthy, and have been wondering about internal medicine vs. family medicine, now you know what makes them different!

Meridian HealthCare is proud to offer integrated services for whole-person wellness. So, if you’re looking for a primary care physician who can take care of your entire family’s well-being, we have a staff of caring professionals who are ready to sit down with you. Meridian is one of the region’s best integrated healthcare organizations, providing unmatched holistic care – all the way from primary care services and counseling to chiropractic treatment and acupuncture. Get a team of doctors who make your well-being a priority. Reach out to Meridian today to book an appointment.