You’ve likely heard the term “internist”, but perhaps you don’t understand exactly what this type of doctor does, or how he or she is different from a family medicine physician. If you are not sure, read on— especially if you suffer from a chronic disease, such as diabetes or hypertension, that you may need help managing.
“An internal medicine physician, or internist, is a doctor that specializes in the internal organs, including the heart, kidney, liver and lungs. We help manage diseases of these and other organs, and are acutely aware of how these organs interact,” said an Internal Medicine Physician with The Memorial Hospital’s Medical Clinic.
For example, internists work with patients who have diabetes. If not managed appropriately, diabetes can affect some of the other organs.
“There’s a lot of overlap between diabetes and other conditions, such as hypertension and elevated cholesterol. My patients tend to have complicated health issues with disorders of several organs,” the physician said.
An internist’s role is often one of a gatekeeper, where he keeps a close eye on a patient’s body systems and helps manage chronic illnesses. When disease processes become advanced, he consults other specialists as needed.
“When a disease becomes complicated, I coordinate my patient’s care with the appropriate specialists. For instance, I work closely with visiting pulmonologists, neurologists, oncologists and several others,” the physician said.
You may be confused, as many people are, about the distinction between a family practice physician and an internal medicine physician. While both serve as primary care physicians for most individuals— providing annual exams and overall health management—there is a distinct difference.
Simply put, family medicine encompasses a broader patient population than internal medicine. Family medicine doctors manage the overall health and well being of all ages, which includes children. They also provide gynecological care to their female patients. Internists tend to be more intensively trained on internal organs and internal processes. And they only see adults.
“As an internal medicine physician, I tend to come in contact with an older population. People often seek me out when they learn they have a chronic disease,” the physician commented. As we age, chronic diseases tend to present themselves, so many patients of internists tend to be in the geriatric population. Many patients of internists struggle with diseases including diabetes, COPD, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, kidney issues, endocrine issues, blood disorders and even infectious diseases.
Internal Medicine Services at TMH
comprehensive physical exams
preventive, wellness screenings & immunizations
treatment of both simple & complex medical problems
chronic disease management
collaboration with specialists
pre-operative & post-operative care