Healthcare Tips

Internist or GP: Which Specialty Is Right for Me?

April 23, 2021

Whether looking to have a physical, getting a yearly vaccine or searching for answers to a chronic health condition, choosing the right physician is a vital part of your wellness journey. When it comes to practicing medicine, all Hancock Health physicians know that quality of care and personal preference are integral in building relationship with patients. But sometimes it goes deeper than that. What can an internist do that a general practitioner (GP) can’t? What about family doctors? And how do you determine which type of doctor best fits your need? Read on for some helpful tips.

It’s a family thing

Family medicine practitioners are trained to care for patients along the entire spectrum of their lives, offering pediatric, adolescent, adult and geriatric medical care. These physicians are capable of basic care for the entire family, providing a single contact point for any illnesses or questions that arise. This makes it easy on the family and allows the doctor to see how family dynamics and genetics play out. Having a family, however, is not required to see a family doctor.

By providing care for someone from infancy through adulthood and beyond, family medicine practitioners are able to build lifelong relationships with their patients. These doctors must complete three years of residency after medical school, learning to treat a wide range of illnesses that fall under categories like pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, psychiatry, radiology, ophthalmology and more. And, GPs are basically the same but generally don’t treat patients younger than 18.

But I might be falling apart

Like family doctors and GPs, internists also complete three years of residency; their studies, however, cover a wider range of specialties intended for adult-only patients, including neurology, psychiatry, endocrinology, rheumatology, dermatology and more. In general, older or more chronically ill patients tend to be best served by internists, as often they have multifaceted issues that combine a range of specialty knowledge. Internists are also more likely to provide both inpatient and outpatient care.

Which one is right for me?

Choosing a doctor can be a difficult decision. If you have a family and want one doctor for everyone, family medicine is your best option. Furthermore, if you want an ongoing relationship with a doctor who can care for you across your lifespan, a family doctor makes more sense. 

If you’re an older adult with multiple or more serious conditions, internal medicine is your best bet. By choosing an internist, you’ll have more continuity of care during and after hospital stays. In general, older or more chronically ill patients tend to be best served by internists, as they have a wider range of knowledge specific to diseases in aging patients and can better put the pieces of your health puzzle together. According to Dr. Stephen Flink, a recently retired internist with Hancock Health, “Being an internist is like being a detective. You are establishing a diagnosis through clues in one’s history, physical symptoms and test results.”

Give me some names!

It is incredibly important to make sure you feel comfortable with your primary care physician. No one wants to become just another name on a chart, which is why choosing the correct physician for you or your family can make all the difference in the patient-doctor relationship. At Hancock Health, our mission is to ensure that patients are satisfied with the care they receive. That’s why we created the Hancock Physician Network, where we strive to improve the health of patients and families in the communities we serve with respect, integrity and clinical excellence. 

With convenient locations, immediate care facilities and same-day appointments in some locations, we make it easy to access the best healthcare for you and your family. Using our website, you can choose from a list of excellent family doctors, GPs and internists who all work within our health system to ensure quality of care for every patient. We look forward to getting to know you and providing excellent care.

Relevant Services

View all Services
Internal Medicine

Get specialty care for adult patients living with diseases and chronic illnesses.