You want the best for your family – especially the best medical care. That’s why choosing a primary care doctor for yourself, or your family, is such an important decision. You want to ensure the best fit, but it can be overwhelming if you have a lot of choices.

You might have found you could make an appointment with an internal medicine or family medicine doctor when searching for a new provider. Have you ever wondered what the difference is?

Although their primary goal is the same – helping you achieve your best health outcomes – there are differences between internal medicine and family medicine that might influence your choice.

Understanding the difference can help you make the best decision for you or your family.

Internal Medicine

Also called internists, doctors specializing in internal medicine only treat adults aged 18 and older. Their focus can be generalized internal medicine, or they may train in sub-specialties like cardiology or neurology.

Internists receive intensive training in adult issues. Like family doctors, they can manage patient care ranging from prevention and general health to complex diseases like hypertension and diabetes. However, they generally treat more complex issues.

Their training includes many areas of adult care, including psychiatry, dermatology, ophthalmology, palliative care, geriatrics, and much more. Because they specialize in adult care, their focus on adult issues tends to be more comprehensive than a family doctor. Internists are also specialists in solving diagnostic puzzles, making them uniquely qualified to handle any patient problem.

Some internists choose to expand their training to include pediatrics as well. These doctors are then able to treat adults and children, but have the advanced training to diagnose and treat complex problems. They may also provide general health and wellness care.

Family Medicine

Family medicine doctors care for patients of all ages at every stage of life: infants, children, adolescents, adults, and even end-of-life care. Their training and practice have a broad focus. They usually have training in acute issues, chronic conditions, prevention, and wellness.

They may also have training in critical care, pediatric hospital care, obstetrics, gynecology, behavioral health, geriatrics, and much more.

Because they care for all ages, family medicine doctors may treat entire families and consider how the family history and relationships affect the health of individuals. Part of their role can be to connect the generations in a family.

How Do You Choose?

The confusion around internal medicine versus family medicine may be because most patients who see family doctors are adults, making the two specialties appear quite similar. Both doctors are well-qualified to care for most common health problems in adults, although internists are able to provide care for more complex conditions.

An internal medicine physician can be a great choice for most adults, as they can care for you no matter your needs – from health and wellness to advanced medical concerns.

Whether you choose internal medicine or family medicine, building a long-term relationship with a doctor you feel comfortable with can help you stay as healthy as possible.

Start building a long-term doctor relationship – schedule a visit with an internal medicine specialist today!