28 Jan How is Internal Medicine Different from Family Medicine?
When medical students first start interning, they are often confused about the difference between internal medicine and family medicine. There are some vital differences in the care that needs to be given to patients in both cases, the kind of treatment that is required and the training that is required.
The growth of internal medicine came as a result of the practical implementation of scientific knowledge in the labs. Once this started happening, scientists started making medicines in the lab, using their written knowledge, to treat the diseases prevalent in adults.
- Medications for Adults were introduced during the 1800s.
- Medicine, especially for children were introduced in the 1900s.
In the 1900s, children’s health care evolved as a separate branch of medicine so it did not really interfere with the adult medicinal treatment. Internal medicine is aimed at treatment of an individual.
Medicinal treatments are categorized according to the following factors.
- A particular Population ( children, men, women)
- Type ( such as surgery)
- Organ system
On the contrary, family medicine deals with the medicinal treatment of the whole family. The training of family doctors is also in accordance with this. Thus, family doctors need to be able to treat any kind of problem that could be encountered by the whole family. They have more knowledge of the family history and they are aware of the susceptibility to a particular disease in the family.
The confusion between the two arises due to the fact that even the family doctors normally treat adults. It has been shown through a survey that only 10 to 20% of the patients treated by family doctors are children. The rest are adults and that makes the patient ratio that comes to the family doctors and internists very close.
Also, most of the family doctors are not involved in complex procedures such as surgeries so it seems like the same kind of patients comes to them as do to the internists. There are a few differences between the two, however.
- Internists only study about the diseases and treatment of adults.
- On the other hand, family physicians take up pediatrics as an additional course during their three years of medical study.
Internists have to work in a hospital for a year after they are done with their three years of study. They need to study about cardiology, gastroenterology, hematology, oncology and many other fields related to adult medicine. They are also exposed to therapeutic treatment for such patients. Basically, they need to be familiarised with the treatment of inpatients and outpatients.
Doctors studying for family medicine are required to spend time in surgery, for gynecology, an encounter with new-borns and other pediatrics related fields. They are normally involved in the treatment of outpatients.
Since the two types are so different, the physicians need particular skills for each type of treatment and they also need to be equipped with the right tools to interact with patients and other co-workers in their field. While one focuses on only one group of the population, the other is aimed at treatment of the whole family and the inheritance of diseases amongst them.