People often get confused between the multiple types of healthcare professionals. Whether it is the best internist in Michigan, a family doctor, or a general practitioner; healthcare professionals, particularly primary care doctors, are usually divided into various subcategories. Typically, these classifications are formulated in consideration to a diverse set of elements such as: the type of patients they treat, their degrees, the section of medicine they operate in etc. Unfortunately, few people understand these key differences which in turn becomes a problem when they seek medical help for their condition.
This article will help you understand the major distinctions between three main leagues of primary care doctors: internists, general practitioner, and family physicians. However, we will first start off by understanding who primary care doctors are and how they play a considerable role in our society.
Primary Care Doctors and Why they are important
Who are primary care doctors and what do they do?
A primary care doctor, or primary care physician (PCP), is a healthcare professional who can help individuals manage a large variety of medical needs that can be both routine and expected. They conduct routine wellness exams, immunizations, preventative care, and screenings. Not only that, but they also diagnose, treat, and manage several chronic issues like type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Typically, they assist individuals in managing flu, cold, and other commonly occurring, temporary health conditions.
Common PCP services consist of:
- Prescribing medicines like antibiotics
- Treating minor, and/or temporary, illnesses like flu or sinus, along with injuries
- Managing chronic conditions
- Screening for commonly occurring health issues e.g. mammograms for breast cancer
- Teach you methods to make better health-based decisions such as diet and exercise
- Link you to a specialty doctor if your condition is far more complex
Why should I have a primary care doctor?
With age, our anatomy and lifestyle develop and change. This definitely has a direct affect on our health, making us frailer and more vulnerable to illnesses. Hence, having a trusted primary care physician is a great way to stay on top of your fitness and deter diseases that might be looming around the corner.
Primary care physicians are with you throughout your health journey which means that they are well aware of your entire health history, which makes them better equipped to pick out any unusual elements. Routine checkups would help subdue a lot of health issues by unmasking several early warning signs.
Know your primary care doctor types
There are five major types of primary care doctors:
- Internal medicine doctors
- Family medicine doctors
- General physicians
Every one of these is expertly trained in treating a wide range of health issues, however every one of them comes from a different educational background and has a different focus. Some PCPs treat patients of all ages, while others specialize in just adults or just children. Basically, the primary care doctor you choose will depend on your, or your loved one’s, needs.
There are three major types of primary care doctors that stand out the most: internists, general practitioner, and family medicine doctors. On the surface they all seem the same, however, intrinsically they are vastly different fields.
The Three Primary Care Physicians
A general practitioner focuses on the overall health of an adult patient, however they also treat children. They will often be your first point of union when it comes to general health issues. He also provide life-saving treatments during emergencies and build long term patient-doctor relationships to help keep track of your health. They will also refer you to specific doctors if your condition is particularly complex
Internal Medicine Doctor
An internal medicine doctor concentrates on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases and injuries. Internists provide expansive care for adult patients utilizing a comprehensive knowledge of diseases and promoting long term wellness through preventative care. Often, a lot of internists choose to specialize in a subspecialty like pulmonology, gastroenterology, cardiology, and pulmonology.
Family Medicine Doctor
Household medicine was built to cater to family units, in opposition to specific patient (like children, elderly, women) or organ system categories (like urology, pulmonology). Family medicine doctors are trained to address a multitude of medical issues that are being encountered by an entire family unit.
Though these primary care doctors might seem a little similar right now, we are going to divulge into what characteristics distinguish them from one another:
Differences in their patient demographics
General medicine physicians
Common practitioners help everyone from newborns to the elderly. General medicine physicians are trained to treat adolescents, adults, and older patients according to their age and lifestyle needs.
Family medicine doctors
Before we further discuss the patient demographic of a family medicine doctor, we feel the need to reiterate that family medicine was extract out of the general practitioner movement in the 1960s. instead of a more straightforward and impersonal method of patient diagnosis of the times, family medicine adopted a more compassionate approach where they doctor would familiarize themselves with the history of the entire family. This means that they can treat patients of all ages, from a child all the way to the senior member of the household
Internal medicine doctors
Internal medicine focuses exclusively on adult patients. Though all three of the primary care physicians see adult patients, internal medicine zones in only one adult disease prevention and illness diagnosis along with treatment.
Differences in their duties
General Medicine Doctors
General medicine doctor provide a wide range of medical care for their patients, however if your matter is complicated, they will refer you a doctor that specializes in that area of anatomy. They typically focus on disease prevention, continuity of care, and health maintenance. They often perform the following healthcare services:
- Managing chronic illnesses
- Conducting routine wellness exams
- Mental health checks
- Keeping patients up with their immunizations
- Referring them to specialists
Internal Medicine Doctors
Internal medicine doctors’ range of duties are a little more complex as compared to other PCPs. They treat various health issues like infections, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, depression, anxiety etc. A lot of internal medicine specialists also choose to go into subspecialties.
Typically, your internal medicine doctor would perform the following duties:
- Taking patients through annual wellness exams
- Ordering test labs and analyzing results
- Developing treatment plans and following up with the patients
- Monitoring and treating chronic illnesses
- Prescribing medicines
Family Medicine Internists
Your family medicine doctor would often have your and your family’s medical history in their keep at all times. Since they are also treating children and individuals of all ages their scope of training would be far broader as well.
Their list of medical services include:
- Performing screenings
- Administering vaccinations
- Developing diet and exercise plans
- Conduct annual wellness checks
- Offering birthing services (sometimes)
What is the difference?
Though it might seem that a lot of their duties resemble each other, which is true since they are all primary care doctors, the difference lies in who they treat. Some PCPs like internal medicine doctors treat only adults, while family medicine doctors look only after families, and general practitioners treat people of all ages and genders. Though you would get almost the same services with all three primary care physicians you just have to keep your needs in check when deciding on the best physician to get treated by.