Choosing the Right Provider: What Is an Internist?

September 8, 2022 11:42 am Published by

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Your primary care provider retired, and now you need to find a new one. One of the providers recommended to you is an internist. But what is an internist exactly?

Within the practice of medicine, there are many different specialties. It’s common to hear about providers who specialize in skin health (dermatologists), the urologic system (urologists), heart health (cardiologists) and other parts of the body. But typically, your care starts with a primary care doctor, who focuses on your overall health and can address many problems before you need to see a specialist. Even within the field of primary care, there are different types of providers—and an internist is one of them.

Understanding the Role of an Internist

An internist, sometimes referred to as an internal medicine doctor, has specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing health issues in people age 18 and older.

As part of their training, internal medicine doctors develop deep knowledge about chronic health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, that are common among adults. Internists are especially proficient in managing care for patients who may have multiple chronic health issues.

Because internists serve as primary care providers, they can refer you to other specialists when necessary. So, if you’re seeing an internist for your general health needs but develop a heart condition, he or she can refer you to a cardiologist when you need more advanced care.

What’s the Difference Between a Family Physician and an Internist?

Internal medicine and family physicians have very similar backgrounds and often provide similar care. The main difference is the age of their patients.

While internists have specialty training in caring for adults, family physicians are general practitioners who undergo training that allows them to care for patients beginning at birth. Because family physicians care for patients at all ages and stages of life, they receive training related to many different health needs, including pediatrics, women’s health and geriatrics.

In fact, family medicine got its name from the fact that one medical provider—the family physician—could provide diagnosis and treatment for health conditions affecting the entire family, from babies to older adults.

It’s important to note that some internists provide care for children. Doing so requires undergoing additional training in pediatrics, allowing them to be credentialed in both adult and pediatric care.

Which Provider Is Best for Me?

Choosing a medical provider is a very personal decision. Since both internists and family medicine physicians can serve in primary care provider roles, there’s no definitive answer to which type of provider you should choose.

Consider the stage of life you’re in. If you are a young adult raising kids, it may be easiest to work with a family medicine physician who can care for your needs as well as your children’s. If you’re an older adult, do not have children or already have a trusted pediatrician for your kids, an internist may be a good option for you.

Ultimately, you want to choose a provider who makes you feel comfortable. Narrow your choices to primary care providers, then look for one who meets your specific needs. You may want to interview a few before deciding on one to provide your ongoing care.

Looking for an internist or another medical provider? Find one at Magnolia Regional Health Center.

This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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