If you are looking for a new primary care provider, you may notice that some providers have “internal medicine” under their name. This can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the term. You may be wondering, “Can an internal physician still be my primary care provider?” How is internal medicine different from family medicine? Do they only treat diseases affecting internal organs? »
To help clear up some of that confusion, Samuel J. Stelmach, a physician at Iredell Internal Medicine, helps explain what internal medicine is, how internal medicine differs from family medicine, and why he decided that medicine internal was the right career path for him.
As National Internal Medicine Day, celebrated on October 28, approaches, it’s a great time to learn more about internal medicine and see if an internal medicine doctor is right for you.
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What is Internal Medicine?
When you see “internal medicine” under a provider’s name, you may first think that the doctor focuses on diseases affecting internal organs. In fact, according to Stelmach, this is a very common misconception.
“A lot of people think internal medicine doctors only treat internal systems when they actually treat most medical conditions in the body,” Stelmach said.
Although the word “internal” can be misleading, an internal medicine doctor treats more than just the organs inside your body.
These doctors focus on treating all types of diseases and conditions in adult patients – from 18 years old through geriatrics. Some interns also see children, but to do so they must have additional training in pediatrics.
Internal medicine is the largest primary care specialty in the United States, and an internal medicine physician can be your primary care provider.
Internal medicine physicians may also be referred to as internists, general internists, or doctors of internal medicine. Their education includes medical school and an additional three years of training in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adult disease. They may also choose to take additional training in a sub-specialty such as cardiology, oncology, or gastroenterology, to name a few.
These physicians can provide care in an office or clinic, during a hospital stay, and in nursing homes.
How is internal medicine different from family medicine?
Both internal medicine and family medicine are primary care specialties, so you can choose one or the other as your primary care provider. However, the main difference between the two is that internal medicine physicians primarily treat adults 18 and older, while family physicians treat patients of all ages.
“Internal medicine focuses strictly on adult care, so it’s more specialized in that regard because it doesn’t focus on infants or children. Typically, an internal medicine physician also has more specialized training,” Stelmach said.
Internal medicine physicians have special training in adult medical care and provide ongoing care for chronic conditions. They are experts in complexity as they often deal with patients with more than one chronic disease.
“All doctors are faced with complex decisions due to several chronic diseases. Given that internal medicine sees a patient population with an increased average age compared to family medicine, it is likely that on average internal medicine must deal with more complex interactions of various medical conditions,” Stelmach said.
Another difference is that internal medicine physicians have extensive training in hospital and hospital care, so they are more likely to work in a hospital setting than a family physician. So, if you are admitted to hospital, you will more than likely be seen by an intern doctor. Internal medicine doctors who work in hospitals are often called hospitalists.
Family physicians and internal medicine physicians both treat similar conditions. According to Stelmach, some of the conditions he sees most frequently include hypertension, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, heart failure and COPD.
If you are an adult who is currently managing a chronic illness, an internal medicine doctor may be a great option for you. However, healthy adults may also choose an internal medicine doctor as their primary care provider.
Why did Stelmach choose internal medicine?
“The ability to become well acquainted with many aspects of medicine and treatments for various medical conditions, and to be able to do so on an outpatient or inpatient basis without hesitation, if necessary, is what attracted me to internal medicine,” Stelmach said.
Seeing the health of his patients improve is what he finds most rewarding in his work.
Stelmach practices at Iredell Internal Medicine, located at 757 Bryant St., Statesville, and is accepting new patients. If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Samuel Stelmach, call the office at 704-873-5658.