Family doctors and internists (also known as internal medicine doctor) are two different types of medical practitioners that are trained to treat various health conditions in adults. While both provide primary care services, there are significant differences between them in terms of their training, the type of patients they see, and how they approach patient care.
In this blog, we will delve into these differences to help you make an informed decision about whether an internal medicine doctor or a family doctor is right for you
Family doctors, also known as general practitioners or GP, are trained to provide basic medical care for patients of all ages and genders, including preventive care, diagnosis, and treatment of common medical problems such as the common flu, food poisoning or even an ear infection,
Internal medicine doctor, also widely known as internist, are specialists trained in providing in- depth health care for adults. They may also have subspecialty training such as cardiology, infectious diseases, geriatric medicine. In Singapore, this is done after some very basic training in internal medicine. In other countries, such as Germany, a subspecialty training follows on after a full specialty training in Internal Medicine.
Internists are trained to manage particularly complex or multisystem conditions that single-organ-disease specialists may not be comfortable to deal with. They may be asked to tackle undifferentiated presentations that cannot be easily assigned to a single organ, such as dyspnea, fatigue, weight loss, chest pain, confusion or change in consciousness state.
Internists also manage complex and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, hypertension etc.
Family doctors, as the name implies, see patients of all ages and provide care for the entire family. They are often the first point of contact for routine medical care, such as well child care, immunizations, and the treatment of common illnesses and injuries.
Internists, on the other hand, primarily see adult patients. Well adult health checks, especially for patients with pre existing chronic disease, are best done by an Internist who will be able to manage both the underlying root illness, such as diabetes, and the downstream end-organ damage, such as diabetic foot or kidney disease. Internists are recommended for patients experiencing symptoms of ill health but are not sure what caused the symptoms. It could also be that these patients have consulted a single organ specialist to no avail, thus seeking advice from an specialist for Internal Medicine is likely the best choice.
Approach to Care
Family doctors provide preventive care, as well as diagnose and treat common medical conditions.
Internists, on the other hand, take a holistic approach with a focus on the diagnosis and treatment of complex medical conditions. They work closely with their patients to develop customized treatment plans that address their specific health needs and help manage their chronic conditions over time.
In some cases, a patient under the care of a general practitioner might get referred to an internist to go through a series of diagnostic tests. Managed by the internist, these tests deep dive into the condition, and help develop a plan to treat and manage the issue.
Seeing a family doctor for your primary care needs has several benefits. For starters, you have a single physician who is familiar with your medical history and can provide comprehensive care for you and your family. They can also refer you to specialists if necessary.
An internist would be suitable for someone who prefers to have a long term relationship with a doctor who can provide complex care. This includes coordinating with the different subspecialists, and diagnostic tests involved, to avoid unnecessary and overlapping tests and treatments.
In conclusion, both family doctors and internists play a vital role in providing primary care services to patients. The key differences between them lie in their training, the type of patients they see, and their approach to patient care. When choosing a doctor, it’s important to consider your individual medical needs and goals to determine which type of practitioner is best suited to meet your needs.
About Dr Adrian Mondry
Dr Adrian Mondry is a Hypertension Specialist accredited by the German Hypertension League in Singapore. He was previously a senior consultant in the department of medicine at the National University Hospital and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH), Dr Mondry has more than 30 years of experience in the field of internal medicine.
Dr Adrian Mondry is recognised for his leadership and contributions in establishing the dedicated hypertension clinic within the National University Health System and fast-track deep vein thrombosis service at NTFGH.
Dr Adrian Mondry is fluent in English, German and French.
About Kaizen Medical
Kaizen Medical is located at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, Suite 11-57.
At Kaizen, we provide in depth health care to patients with multi-organs diseases; tackling undifferentiated presentations that cannot be easily assigned to a single organ.