When choosing a primary care physician, or PCP, you usually have two choices: an internal medicine doctor or a family medicine doctor. But what’s the difference? And how do you know which type of doctor is best for you?
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Family Medicine Doctors vs. Internal Medicine Doctors
Although the two overlap in many areas, the difference is that family medicine physicians generally see patients of all ages, while internists focus on adults. Let’s break down the differences between these two types of primary care doctors:
- Both internists and family medicine doctors focus on the total health of their patients and work to promote wellness and disease prevention.
- Internists’ training primarily focuses on general medical conditions common to adults, and many receive sub-specialty training in other areas such as sleep medicine, neurology, dermatology, or geriatrics.
- Family medicine physicians also receive hospital training, but have a focus on outpatient care. They may also have training in pediatrics. Their focus is on treating individuals of all ages, from infants through seniors. You don’t, however, need to be part of a family to have a family medicine doctor.
Finding the Primary Care That’s Right for You
An advantage of having a family medicine physician is that the whole family can be seen at the same office. You and your kids have continuity of care, and your family’s medical records are securely held by the same doctor from childhood through adulthood.
When deciding which type of doctor to see, your best approach is to find the physician you feel most comfortable with. Both types of doctors have the training to manage conditions ranging from common to complex. Visit the office, talk with the doctors, ask about their approaches to care. Then choose what is best for you as an individual, or for you and your family.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.