Should I Choose a Family Medicine or Internal Medicine Provider for My PCP?

Rou­tine screen­ings. Flu symp­toms. A refer­ral to see a spe­cial­ist. These are just a few of the many rea­sons you might make an appoint­ment with your pri­ma­ry care provider (PCP).

Your PCP is a one-stop shop for most non-emer­gency med­ical sit­u­a­tions. They treat com­mon med­ical con­di­tions, help you make healthy lifestyle choic­es, pro­vide pre­ven­ta­tive care, and help direct you to anoth­er health­care provider when necessary. 

When choos­ing a PCP, you have options, includ­ing whether to see a fam­i­ly med­i­cine or inter­nal med­i­cine provider for your care. Here’s an overview of each of these roles and how you can choose which one is best for you. 

What’s the Dif­fer­ence Between a Fam­i­ly Med­i­cine and an Inter­nal Med­i­cine Provider?

Both fam­i­ly med­i­cine and inter­nal med­i­cine providers are great options for your pri­ma­ry care provider — but there are a few dif­fer­ences between the two.

Fam­i­ly med­i­cine physi­cians pro­vide pri­ma­ry care to patients of all ages, from infants to the elder­ly. This means they have the train­ing to treat and care for a wide range of health con­di­tions that you might encounter through­out your entire life. 

Inter­nal med­i­cine physi­cians — also called internists — pro­vide pri­ma­ry care for adult patients, and often spe­cial­ize in ongo­ing care for chron­ic ill­ness­es (like heart dis­ease or dia­betes) and car­ing for patients with more than one dis­ease. They also focus on dis­ease prevention. 

Search­ing for a pri­ma­ry care provider? Make an appoint­ment with a Duly inter­nal med­i­cine provider or fam­i­ly med­i­cine provider today. 

Fam­i­ly Med­i­cine and Inter­nal Med­i­cine Training

While both fam­i­ly med­i­cine and inter­nal med­i­cine providers are equipped to care for adult patients, there are some dif­fer­ences in their training. 

Fam­i­ly Med­i­cine Physicians

Fam­i­ly med­i­cine physi­cians train in pro­vid­ing care for a con­tin­u­um of patients from infant to adult. They focus on acute (severe and sud­den) and chron­ic (ongo­ing) con­di­tions as well as gen­er­al wellness. 

Fam­i­ly med­i­cine providers also train in oth­er depart­ments, such as obstet­rics, gyne­col­o­gy, surgery, geri­atric care, and mus­cu­loskele­tal med­i­cine. They also gain expe­ri­ence in well­ness areas, like behav­ioral health and pop­u­la­tion health. 

Inter­nal Med­i­cine Physicians

Inter­nal med­i­cine physi­cians are typ­i­cal­ly only trained in treat­ing adults (unless they under­go dual train­ing in inter­nal med­i­cine and pedi­atrics). They study gen­er­al med­ical issues as well as sub­spe­cial­ties, like endocrinol­o­gy, rheuma­tol­ogy, and neurology. 

Train­ing for inter­nal med­i­cine also includes expe­ri­ence in oth­er depart­ments, like psy­chi­a­try, der­ma­tol­ogy, sleep med­i­cine, and geri­atrics. This helps them gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of oth­er fields that they might refer patients to. 

How Do I Know Which Is Right for Me? 

Fam­i­ly med­i­cine and inter­nal med­i­cine physi­cians are both capa­ble of pro­vid­ing excel­lent care, includ­ing help­ing you live a healthy lifestyle, detect­ing health prob­lems ear­ly, and diag­nos­ing and treat­ing ill­ness­es. Still, you’ll need to decide which provider is best for you.

Fam­i­ly med­i­cine providers take a broad approach in terms of health con­di­tions as well as age. This pre­pares them to deal with a wide range of med­ical con­di­tions, mak­ing them help­ful for com­mu­ni­ties where cer­tain spe­cial­ists aren’t an option. 

Because fam­i­ly med­i­cine providers work with all ages, they tend to adapt their approach to meet the needs of their com­mu­ni­ties. They can also treat your whole fam­i­ly to gain a broad­er under­stand­ing of your med­ical his­to­ry. Plus, you may not have to make the tran­si­tion from pedi­atrics to an adult pri­ma­ry care provider.

Inter­nal med­i­cine providers, on the oth­er hand, focus only on adults, mak­ing their train­ing in adult med­ical con­cerns exten­sive. They are skilled at diag­nos­ing dis­eases that impact adults and man­ag­ing com­plex med­ical sit­u­a­tions if you have mul­ti­ple health conditions. 

Because of their train­ing in med­ical sub­spe­cial­ties, inter­nal med­i­cine providers are also well-equipped to work with col­leagues in oth­er spe­cial­ties. This makes them ide­al for patients with com­plex med­ical needs, such as heart con­di­tions or autoim­mune diseases. 

Mak­ing the Best Deci­sion for Your Health Needs

Choos­ing a pri­ma­ry care physi­cian is an impor­tant deci­sion. Ide­al­ly, you’ll stay with this provider long-term so they can gain a deep­er under­stand­ing of your health. This makes it essen­tial to choose the type of provider that aligns best with your needs and values. 

While fam­i­ly med­i­cine and inter­nal med­i­cine providers have slight­ly dif­fer­ent train­ing and approach­es to care, they both put your health front-and-cen­ter. With either choice, you can rest assured that your pri­ma­ry care provider will help you live a long and healthy life.

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  • Masood Khan, MD - Westmont Family Doctor

    Since I was a child, I've always wanted to help people. One of the things that attracted me towards medicine is observing the compassion that doctors exhibited when interacting with their patients. After helping my grandmother recover from a stroke and surgery, I was inspired to focus on senior care. One of my favorite parts of getting to interact with seniors is just sitting down and having a conversation with them! I greatly value open and honest communication with my patients and it's amazing at what you can learn from the wealth of their vast experiences! I also find it immensely satisfying to help them live their golden years as independently and with the highest quality of life as possible.