Primary care doctors are healthcare professionals who specialize in diagnosing conditions or referring patients to appropriate specialists. They should be the first person you turn to when you have a medical problem that isn’t considered an emergency.

Having a long-term relationship with your primary care doctor will help you stay healthy. It’s important to choose the right primary care physician to assist you because they contribute to your overall well-being in the long run. 

Family Medicine Doctor

Family medicine doctors provide care and treatment for patients of all ages. Their services encompass four branches of medicine, including:

  • Pediatrics
  • Adolescent medicine
  • Adult medicine
  • Geriatrics

A family medicine doctor is unique because they often treat the same patients and families throughout their lives. To become a family medicine doctor, you need to complete a three-year residency program. The program starts once you finish medical school. It includes training in:

  • Pediatric medicine
  • Obstetrics
  • Gynecology
  • Internal medicine
  • Emergency medicine
  • Surgery
  • Psychiatry
  • Radiology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Urology

A family medicine doctor can treat a wide variety of conditions for patients of all ages because of their extensive training. Many family doctors also incorporate obstetrics, palliative care, and sports medicine into their repertoire of treatments through added fellowship training.

Internal Medicine Doctor

Also known as internists, internal medicine doctors primarily care for adults. Some internists also have extensive pediatric training.

Internal medicine doctors are highly specialized in diagnosing, preventing, and treating disease in adult patients. An internal medicine doctor can provide you with treatment for a broad array of health conditions, including counseling on preventative health measures.

Internists are also required to complete a three-year residency before practicing internal medicine. Some also receive additional training in the following subspecialties:

  • Neurology
  • Endocrinology
  • Oncology
  • Dermatology
  • Cardiology
  • Psychiatry
  • Geriatrics
  • Rheumatology

Family Medicine Doctor vs. Internal Medicine Doctor

You may find it difficult to decide whether you want to receive care from a family medicine doctor or an internal medicine doctor because they are both primary care physicians.

One distinct difference between the two is that internal medicine doctors typically only treat adult patients (18 years or older). Family medicine doctors, however, treat patients of all ages. Additional differences between family medicine doctors and internal medicine doctors include:

  • Medical Setting: Internists often work in hospitals as inpatient specialists, while family medicine doctors commonly work in a comfortable doctor’s office providing outpatient care.
  • Training: Internal medicine residences are often based in a hospital setting focusing on pressurized care, such as emergency medicine, critical care, intensive care, and surgery. Family medicine residencies can be found in clinical offices with a focus on outpatients.

Which Doctor Is Right for You?

The critical difference between a family medicine doctor and an internal medicine doctor is who they serve as patients. Your unique needs will determine which kind of doctor is right for you. A young couple may feel fine visiting an internist in a hospital setting; however, that same couple may later choose a family medicine doctor if they decide to have children.