What is the Difference Between Family Medicine and Internal Medicine

Family Medicine Vs. Internal Medicine

Family medicine and internal medicine are medical specialties. Although they are two separate specialties, most people get confused about them. Both specialties train physicians to diagnose, treat, and prevent various health disorders and ailments.

However, there are distinct differences between internal medicine and family medicine. Getting the right health treatment is very important, so it’s important to know the difference between internal medicine and family medicine.

Family medicine and internal medicine practitioners are both primary care physicians. Still, they have two different roles in medical care.

In reality, both family medicine and internal medicine practitioners provide a mix of outpatient and inpatient care. Family medicine physicians often see patients in an outpatient setting, managing various health issues and providing preventive care. Internal medicine physicians, or internists, also see patients in outpatient settings but may have a more significant role in hospitals, managing complex illnesses in adults.

Let’s look at the difference between family medicine and internal medicine.

Family Medicine and Internal Medicine

Difference between Family Medicine and Internal Medicine

What is Family Medicine

Family medicine specialty involves providing constant and complete healthcare services for patients of all ages and genders. Family medical practitioners are also called primary care physicians. They are trained to treat and prevent various chronic and acute health conditions and provide general health education to patients.

These primary care physicians are certified to diagnose, treat, and prevent many disorders and diseases that affect the organs.

Family medical practitioners are trained to identify the physical, emotional, and social factors that affect a patient’s health. They are often the first point of contact for healthcare for patients as they can manage minor and major medical problems. Family physicians work at outpatient clinics as well as hospitals.

What Does Family Medicine Treat

These are some of the most common health and medical disorders that family medicine practitioners can diagnose and treat:

  • Metabolic and endocrine – Thyroid, diabetes, etc.
  • Gastrointestinal – Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Musculoskeletal – Arthritis, chronic back pain, etc.
  • Mental health – Depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Respiratory – Pneumonia, bronchitis, etc.
  • Cardiovascular – Coronary artery disease, hypertension, etc.

As the name suggests, family medicine focuses on the entire family’s well-being, from infants to adolescents, adults, and seniors. They are primary care providers and often have a strong bond with families. This strong understanding of the family’s medical history is helpful for family care physicians to provide personalized healthcare to every individual patient.

Family care practitioners also refer patients to specialists if needed and coordinate with the healthcare team. This helps medical specialists provide effective treatment for complex medical problems.

Family physicians also provide preventive healthcare, including lifestyle counseling, regular health checkups, and vaccinations. These measures are focused on helping families lead healthy and happy lives.

What is Internal Medicine

As a medical specialty, internal medicine focuses on the comprehensive care of adults, but this does not preclude internists from treating adolescents and even younger patients in certain contexts. Internists deeply understand complex diseases that affect adults and are well-equipped to manage multifaceted health issues. It is also called general medicine, and the practitioners are called Internists. Internal medicine practitioners are also trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent several health and medical issues affecting a person’s organs.

Internal medicine practitioners are also responsible for coordinating with other medical specialists and helping to manage a patient’s complex medical problem. They are trained to diagnose common and rare diseases and usually work at hospitals as primary contacts for patients’ medical care. Internists can also work in clinics.

What Does Internal Medicine Treat

Internal medicine is mainly focused on identifying and treating disorders of the organ systems in adults, such as:

  • Infectious – Urinary tract infection (UTI), pneumonia, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Oncological – Colon cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, etc.
  • Neurological – Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
  • Chronic – Chronic kidney failure, diabetes, hypertension, etc.
  • Hematological – Clotting disorder, anemia, etc.
  • Autoimmune and inflammatory – Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.

While internal medicine practitioners primarily focus on adult care, many internists are comfortable treating adolescents, especially those with conditions that transition into adult care. Internists generally do not care for infants or pregnant women but can provide comprehensive care for non-pregnant adults and sometimes younger patients, particularly in adolescent medicine. Their scope of care may include specialized training in relevant medical sub-specialties, such as geriatric medicine for senior health care.

How Do You Choose Between Family Medicine and Internal Medicine Care

Now that you know the difference between family and internal medicine, let’s understand how to choose. First, determine the kind of medical or health care you need.

If you want to meet with a medical practitioner who can become your family physician, you should go to a family medicine practitioner. Family medicine takes care of many health and medical problems that affect family members, from infants to the elderly.

These practitioners form long-term relationships with families and know the best way to treat every individual member. However, if you are an adult suffering from a health or medical problem requiring specialist care, you should contact an internal medicine practitioner.

An internist is trained to identify, treat, and prevent many health issues that affect a person’s organs and other body systems. They are also trained to collaborate with other medical specialists to provide comprehensive medical care to adults with chronic and acute illnesses.


The main difference between family and internal medicine is their scope of practice and patient populations. Family medicine provides comprehensive health care for individuals of all ages, from infants to the elderly, addressing a broad range of conditions and emphasizing preventive care and the management of chronic diseases.

Internal medicine focuses on the comprehensive care of adults, with a deep understanding of diseases that affect adult patients, and internists often have sub-specialty training in areas like cardiology, gastroenterology, or endocrinology. Both disciplines can manage various health issues but have different emphases in the age groups and types of diseases they typically handle. By understanding this distinct difference between family and internal medicine, you can choose the right physician depending on the medical care you need.

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