Do You Need A Family Doctor Or An Internist? How To Make The Right Decision

If you've recently relocated, one of the first things you need to do is find a new doctor. However, while family doctors and internists share a lot of similarities, they aren't exactly the same. You need to understand more about your options before you decide where to make that first doctor's appointment.

What's the difference between a family doctor and an internist?

Family doctors and internists start out with the same basic training, but then their focus shifts so their training takes different directions. Family practitioners are trained to handle patients of all ages, including young children and teenagers. Most family doctors have some training in pediatric medicine, which can be very different than adult medicine.

Internists, however, only see adult patients. Typically, they focus on helping adults with chronic medical conditions manage their health problems. Some internists also have specialized training in more than one area of medicine, like gastroenterology, endocrinology, or cardiology. 

How do you know if an internist or family practitioner is right for you?

This is where you have to take a good look at what kind of relationship you want with your physician. Both family doctors and internists serve as "primary care" doctors for their patients. However, you probably want a family doctor when:

  • You want your entire family, including your minor children, to be seen by the same doctor.
  • You don't have any chronic medical conditions, like diabetes or coronary diseases, that need to be managed, and are primarily seeking a doctor who can handle yearly checkups and acute care (when you're actually sick).

On the other hand, it's far wiser to choose an internist when:

  • You don't have any minor children or don't mind taking them to a different doctor (usually a pediatrician) until they turn 18.
  • You have at least one chronic health condition that requires ongoing management, even if it's relatively stable (like diabetes).
  • You have several chronic health problems and need a doctor to coordinate the care you receive from several different specialists (like a neurologist for your migraines and a rheumatologist to manage your arthritis).

Essentially, an internist acts like a ringmaster in a circus—they keep everyone else involved in your medical care on track and working together. A family doctor is more like a "one-man (or woman) show," only reaching out to other doctors when a patient develops a condition that needs a specialist's touch.

If you've made your decision and have decided to find a doctor who specializes in internal medicine, contact a doctor like Harvey Harold E II MD PLLC.

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