When searching for a primary care physician, you have two choices: a family medicine or an internal medicine specialist. Both are qualified to provide primary care to adults, regardless of the complexity of the patient’s health conditions. Both doctors spend the same amount of time in school and training — four years of med school plus three years of residency training. While there are many similarities between the two, the most notable difference is in the doctor’s training.
A family physician is trained to provide care for patients from babies to adults and because of that can focus on health between generations and family members. Training is largely based in outpatient settings (not hospitals) and focused on providing acute, chronic and preventative medicine. Trainees are taught a broad skill set that can later be adapted to fit the needs of their practice or community. For example, some family medicine physicians may choose to focus on geriatrics, adolescent or integrative medicine.
Internal Medicine Physician
An internal medicine physician, also known as an internist, is also broadly trained in providing acute, chronic and preventative medicine. However, their training does not include pediatrics, unless they have a dual specialization in that area. For this reason, internal medicine practices typically focus on caring for patients ages 18 and up. Training is more focused on the individual (not the family unit) and more of it is completed in a hospital setting. Internal medicine is also the training path that most doctors take when they know they want to pursue subspecialty training. More than half of internal medicine physicians go on to sub-specialize in areas like endocrinology, rheumatology, cardiology and others.
Both types of doctor are more than capable of meeting your primary health needs. The real question of fit comes down to finding the doctor with whom you have the best rapport — one you can trust with your health decisions and feel you can rely upon.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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