Primary care is often considered a traditional role for many general internal medicine physicians. Primary care involves first-contact care for people with an undiagnosed symptom, sign, or health concern; care for individuals which is not organ- or problem- specific; longitudinal or continuous care; and responsibility for coordinating other health services related to a patient's care. Because internal medicine training is comprehensive and focused mostly on adults, general internal medicine physicians are particularly well equipped to provide preventive care and diagnose and manage disease in a primary care setting.
Primary care may be provided in a wide range of practice settings. Traditional primary care practices tend to be office-based, with internal medicine physicians either limiting their work to ambulatory settings or also managing their patients in the hospital when necessary. For those who limit their work to the ambulatory setting, arrangements are often made with hospitalists to help in caring for their patients requiring inpatient care. However, there are many other primary care practice types including combined subspecialty-primary care practices and combinations of primary care with other types of practice. Many internal medicine physicians also have unique individualized primary care practice arrangements, including part-time and shared positions.
As with other types of internal medicine practice, general internal medicine physicians practicing primary care have the opportunity to participate in practice and quality improvement activities. Some primary care general internal medicine physicians participate in clinical research, and many also teach medical students and resident trainees in primary care settings.
Most internal medicine physicians practicing primary care hold the basic certification in internal medicine, although they may seek additional training to better address specific types of clinical issues or group of patients within their practice, such as geriatrics, sports medicine, or women’s health.