Why Family Medicine is the Best Choice for Primary Care

Be part of the lucky ones to experience energy and enthusiasm for primary care. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) represents 127,600 physicians and student members across the country. It is the only medical society dedicated exclusively to primary care. A family doctor is a pediatrician and internist combined in a single specialty, caring for both children and adults. Family medicine is the center of primary care, the generalist of generalists.

Unlike other specialties that are limited to a particular organ, disease, or age range, family doctors treat the widest range of ailments and patients, from newborns to seniors, and everything in between. To ensure optimal security, this website will soon be unavailable in this browser. Please update your browser to allow continued use of ACP websites. Sponsor a Fellowship Continue the Fellowship tradition by sharing your own experience and offering to support other members' candidacies.

Explore our virtual course offerings and learn from anywhere. Treating a patient? Are you researching a topic? Get Answers Now. Billing and coding, access to financial assistance, payer policies, and other updated guidance. Practice Management During COVID-19 Offering guidance on clinical use cases, technology, regulations and exemptions, and billing and coding. This is perhaps one of the most confusing questions for many students (and patients alike), especially when referring to internists who practice general internal medicine. However, there are fundamental differences in the approach, training, and patient care activities of these two specialties. The family medicine specialty emerged from the general practitioner movement in the late 1960s in response to the increasing level of medical specialization that was considered increasingly threatening to the primacy of the physician-patient relationship and continuity of care.

Conceptually, family medicine is based on a social unit (the family) as opposed to a specific patient population (that is, adults, children, or women), organ system (i.e.Consequently, family doctors are trained with the intention of being able to treat the full spectrum of medical problems that members of a family unit may encounter. Much of the confusion is likely to arise because most of the patients seen by family doctors are adults, which overlaps with the patient population focused by internists. A general estimate is that a typical family practice office could care for 10 to 15% of children, which means that between 85 and 90% of patients will be adults, the same population served by internists. In addition, a growing number of family physicians do not include obstetrics, neonatology, or significant surgery as part of their practices, making the care provided to adults similar to that provided by internists. These factors make it easy to see that the differences between general internal medicine and family medicine may not be easily understood. Family medicine training is generally based on outpatient training centers where residents work throughout the course of their training.

Students should provide acute, chronic and wellness care for a continuity patient panel, with a minimum number of encounters with children and older adults. Family medicine trainees must also have at least 6 months of inpatient experience and 1 month of adult intensive care, and up to 2 months of care for children in the hospital or in emergency settings. Additional requirements include 2 months of obstetrics, a minimum number of visits with newborns, 1 month of gynecology, 1 month of surgery, 1 month of geriatric care and 2 months of training in musculoskeletal medicine. Family medicine trainees should also have experience in behavioral health, common skin diseases, population health, and health system management, with special emphasis on wellness and disease prevention. These differences between internal medicine and family medicine training result in unique skill sets for each discipline and different strengths in patient care. Because internal medicine education focuses solely on adults and includes experience in both general medicine and internal medicine subspecialties, training in adult medical topics is comprehensive and in-depth. The general and subspecialty nature of the training prepares internists to develop expertise in diagnosing the wide variety of diseases that commonly affect adults and in managing complex medical situations in which multiple conditions can affect a single person. Internists are well prepared to provide primary care to adults through their outpatient continuity experience during training, especially for patients with medical complications. Their training also allows them to effectively interact with their colleagues in the internal medicine subspecialty in the co-management of complex patients (such as those with transplants, cancer or autoimmune diseases) and easily manage transitions from outpatient to inpatient (and vice versa) for their patients requiring hospitalization. In addition, extensive hospital experience during training uniquely prepares internists who choose to focus their clinical work on inpatient settings (learn more about hospital medicine).Family medicine education is broader in nature than internal medicine as it involves training in child care and procedures and services often provided by other specialties.

This breadth of education prepares family physicians to treat a wide range of medical problems; this broad skill set can be particularly valuable in communities or geographical areas where certain specialists or subspecialists may not be available. Because of their broad skill set, family doctors often adapt the nature of their practices to meet the specific medical needs of their community. While the depth of training in adult medical topics may be less than in internal medicine; the emphasis on outpatient medicine; continuity of care; maintenance of health; and disease prevention allows family physicians to function as primary care physicians for adults as part of a family unit based on individual medical need. And family doctors are trained to coordinate care between different specialists or subspecialists when their patients need these services. Therefore it can be seen that there are important differences between internal medicine and family medicine. Both have unique skill sets and important roles in caring for adult patients; delivering primary care based on practice environment; and specific needs of the patient. What is an internist? Where do they practice? Who are they treating? Internal...

Norma Dickhaus
Norma Dickhaus

Lifelong food evangelist. Amateur food maven. Award-winning explorer. Extreme internet buff. Certified twitter scholar.

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