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The difference between family medicine and internal medicine

“Primary care physicians fall into [one of two categories]: family medicine doctors and internal medicine doctors,” explains Saju Mathew, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont Physicians Group. “We’re all primary care physicians, but the biggest difference is internal medicine doctors are like adult pediatricians.”

Here is a breakdown of which doctor sees which type of patient:

  • A pediatrician cares for children.
  • An internal medicine physician cares for adults.
  • A family practitioner is a pediatrician and internist combined into one specialty, and cares for both children and adults.

“A family physician like myself, we see adults and kids, plus we do a lot of women’s health,” says Dr. Mathew. “A lot of family physicians see the entire family and you kind of grow with the whole family.”

Regardless of your age, it’s important to your health that you develop a relationship with a physician.

“A lot of times when patients pick a doctor, they may pick an internist because they haven’t had a family physician growing up,” he says.

Dr. Mathew reminds us that family practitioners can take care of individual adult health needs regardless of family status. 

So, as an adult, you have two good options.

“If you want a good adult primary care physician, you can see a family physician who is trained to take care of adults or you can see an internal medicine physician, who also takes care of adults.”

To find a provider near you, click here.  

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