Choosing Between a Family Medicine Provider and an Internal Medicine Provider

What is the difference between providers who practice internal medicine and those who are involved in family medicine?

We know it’s confusing. Our team at Van Wert Health wants to help you understand the difference between an internal medicine physician and family medicine physician to better know who to turn to when the medical need arises.

Both internal medicine physicians (called internists) and family medicine physicians serve as a patient’s “primary” source of care when concerning symptoms develop and can refer patients to other specialists, if necessary. The key difference between these two physicians is the age range of their patients.

  • Family medicine physicians are trained to care for the entire family, including babies, children, teens, adults, and seniors.
  • Internal medicine physicians are trained to treat adult health concerns and focus on adult patients exclusively.

If you are an adult, you can visit either one of these practitioners and be confident that you will be cared for by a highly qualified professional. 


Internal Medicine Physician

An internal medicine physician, also known as an internist, mainly focuses on the overall health of the internal organs.  They are specially trained to expertly care for patients with chronic illnesses or genetic disorders in adult patients, and more expertise in treating the internal organs of patients. Older patients are the most common group to see an internist, due to the body aging and thus having more chronic illnesses as time passes. 

Internists complete three years, or more, of sub-specialty residencies and fellowships after medical school in areas such as sleep medicine, neurology, dermatology, or geriatrics.


Family Medicine Physician

A family medicine physician has specialized training to diagnose and manage acute illnesses and chronic conditions and to provide preventative care to patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly and everyone in between.  They provide comprehensive, coordinated care that often focuses on preventive care. You do not need to have a family to see a family medicine doctor. Family medicine doctors also address issues that come up during annual checkups and perform some minor procedures.

To practice family medicine, doctors must pass a three-year residency program after medical school. The residency program in family medicine includes pediatric medicine, internal medicine, surgery, psychiatry, radiology, obstetrics and gynecology, urology, among other areas.

Whether you are in need of an internist or a family practitioner, the medical team at Van Wert Health, is here to help.