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The Who- What- Where – When and Why of Internal Medicine

Are you over 18 years old and in the market for a new medical person? But all your knowledge of doctoring comes from watching ‘House’ and ‘ER’ on TV. Don’t mention CSI because, you don’t want to go near those guys at all, ever. You need an ‘Internist’ or a family doctor. But one that will give you the best advice at your annual check-up, or with that little cholesterol thing we all seem to be obsessing over these days?

Internal MedicineInternal MedicineYou are almost in good shape and only need a six monthly once over. So you are in need of a new ‘primary’ medico. They are so called, because they are your first port of call for coughs, fevers, bugs and all other lesser symptoms of ill health. You will soon see that many physicians are classified as ‘family’ doctors while others are described as ‘internists’. But you need to know which of the two can best meet your particular requirements.

‘Family’ doctor does not mean that they have a spouse and 2.6 children of their own. Rather they have completed their training as a resident in the field of family medicine. By comparison an internist is more specialised in the arena of internal medicine. There is a big overlap in the two specialisms since adults are a big part of any family and adults are the primary concern of the internist.

What distinguishes a family medicine doctor from an internist is mostly the fact they diagnose and treat children and young adults as well as more mature patients, from cradle to grave. Some family medical doctors even go in for prenatal doctoring and helping out at births.

Internal medicine doctors treat almost exclusively with patients 18 years and older. So that’s the differences in the who and the what of the two streams of medicine. Internal medicine and family medicine also differ in where they take place. The internist will do their training and practice, for the most part in hospital clinics. Whist the family medicine practitioner is much more acquainted with outpatient care in community clinics. Internal medicine is all about the health and pathology of adults, which is a huge and diverse subject area in itself.

The career path of many family medicine practitioners goes straight from residency to community practice with very few fellowships available in more specialist areas focussing on say, young adults, the very elderly or even sports medicine.

By comparison, the training that young doctors get in an internal medicine residency is quite general. So much so, that many graduates opt for further specialisation into areas such as cardiology, nephrology, oncology, or pulmonology.

As long as your chosen primary care physician is ‘board certified’ they can both offer you competent care and your choice as to where you put your money and health insurance premiums becomes a question of relationships. Or which doctor can offer you (and your family) the most therapeutic personal service.