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Family doctor or internist — what’s the difference?

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a doctor smiles as she speaks to a patient

Choosing a primary care doctor is a big decision — one that starts with knowing which kind is best for you.

Photo provided by Novant Health

A family doctor and internal medicine physician (aka internist) are both primary care physicians doing the hard work of being at the forefront of your health — but they’re not the same thing.

Here’s how they differ:

  • Family doctor: Provides all-ages care with a wider range of training in orthopedics, dermatology, pediatrics, minor procedures, and more.
  • Internist: Provides care for 18+ patients with a focus on hospital-based medicine and medicine sub-specialties (think: heart health, endocrinology, or infectious diseases).

How to decide which to choose