Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness.
What’s an Internal Medicine Physician?
Internal Medicine physicians, sometimes known as Internists or Doctors of Internal Medicine, are experts in complexity. They specialize in adult medicine, and are specially trained to solve diagnostic problems, manage severe long-term illnesses, and help patients with multiple, complex chronic conditions. They provide comprehensive, longitudinal patient care. They have life-long relationships with adult patients, and their recommendations are based on each patient’s unique situation.
Internal Medicine physicians see the big picture. Their deep training and knowledge of the entire human body and its organ systems give them a unique perspective of how everything works in unison. They analyze, consider and make connections from multiple data sets, and identify solutions for optimal health outcomes. Internal medicine physicians are known as the "doctor's doctor" because they are often called upon by other medical professionals for their ability to connect the dots and help solve problems. Their expertise makes them vital to both patients and medical professionals.
General Internal Medicine
Internal Medicine physicians spend at least three of their seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training dedicated to learning how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases that affect adults. Many internal medicine physicians enter into practice following completion of their basic internal medicine training. These physicians practice "general internal medicine" and are commonly referred to as "general internists" and "internal medicine physicians." Internal medicine physicians are trained to handle the broad and comprehensive spectrum of illnesses that affect adults, and are recognized as experts in diagnosis, in treatment of chronic illness, and in health promotion and disease prevention—they are not limited to one type of medical problem or organ system. They are specially trained to solve puzzling diagnostic problems and can handle severe chronic illnesses and situations where several different illnesses may strike at the same time.
Internal Medicine physicians serve, and lead, in many diverse roles and settings. Their training uniquely qualifies them to practice primary care and follow patients over the duration of their adult lives. Some internal medicine physicians provide outpatient care, while others, sometimes referred to as “hospitalists,” focus on caring for patients in hospital settings or combine these facets of care and provide both outpatient and inpatient care. The majority of hospitalists in the U.S. are internal medicine physicians. Internal Medicine physicians also practice in other clinical settings, such as rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, and health clinics.
Internal Medicine Subspecialties
Some Internal Medicine physicians choose to take additional training to "subspecialize" in a more focused area of internal medicine. Subspecialty training (often called a "fellowship") usually requires an additional one to three years beyond the basic three year internal medicine residency. Although physicians who have completed additional training in a particular area of internal medicine are frequently referred to by their area of subspecialty focus (for example, those who subspecialize in diseases of the heart are usually called “cardiologists”), all share the same basic internal medicine training and are also considered internal medicine physicians The training an internal medicine physician receives to subspecialize in a particular medical area is both broad and deep, and qualifies them to manage very complex medical issues and in many cases perform advanced clinical procedures.