A doctor of internal medicine, also called an internist, specializes in diagnosing and treating adults. You can expect a physician of this type to be well-versed in many conditions that may plague patients during adulthood, as opposed to someone who treats children or patients of all ages. If you have the option to see this type of doctor, you should learn the pros and cons of doing so, compared to other doctors.
The main reason to see a doctor of internal medicine is that he or she focuses only on diseases that may appear in adults. For this reason, many physicians in this specialty know more about each condition than a general practitioner might, since the latter is not a specialist in the area. Therefore, even if you choose a general practitioner, you may be sent to an internist anyway when he or she cannot properly diagnose the issue. If you suspect the problem you have is rare or complicated, or your current physician seems to have never heard of it, you should likely see a doctor of internal medicine.
Of course, you should check with your insurance provider before you make this decision. Some providers require people to get a referral from their current practitioner before seeing a specialist. In addition, copays may be higher when you see a practitioner who specializes in any field. For this reason, if your insurance is restrictive or you are looking to save money on your copays, you might choose a general practitioner first. You can then switch to an internist if you need to in the future.
In addition, when you choose an internal medicine specialist, you cannot have your whole family go to the same practice. Many people like to go to a family practice so their children, spouse, and other loved ones of any age can all see the same physician. Clearly, an internist cannot provide this advantage unless your children are already adults. Therefore, if you seek the convenience of all seeing the same doctor, you should go to a family-oriented office first, and then switch to a specialist if you need to.
Knowing these facts may help you decide whether to go to an office of internal medicine or stick with someone who can treat your whole family at any age. You will need to weigh the pros and cons, considering both your health and insurance coverage while you are at it. Of course, you can always change your mind when necessary after you make your choice.