In the last few years, there has been a surge of internal medicine physicians in the United States, including some who are no strangers to the world of internal medical care.
Many are working in the fields of neurology and geriatrics, and others are working on specialty medical topics.
What makes internal medicine special?
The internal medicine profession, as a group, does not accept any particular specialty, says Dr. Jennifer J. Atherton, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
“There is no special specialty for internal medicine,” she said.
“It is a holistic approach to health care.”
Internal medicine physicians do have specialties, like emergency medicine and emergency medicine surgery, and also have a certain degree of specialization, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are experts.
Some of the most popular specialties in internal medicine are in pediatrics and geriatric medicine, but they’re not the only ones, said Dr. David A. Gifford, a professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University who studies the pathophysiology of chronic diseases.
“Most of the specialty medicine physicians that we have in this country are very well trained in the sciences, and they have specializations in those fields, but we do not have a specialization in internal medical,” he said.
This can lead to a lack of research into these areas, Giffords said.
There are also a lot of medical specialties outside of internal Medicine that are less specialized.
“If you look at the medical specialities, there are a lot more fields that are specialized in different areas of medicine, such as neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, as opposed to the general medical fields,” Gifferson said.
Internal Medicine is an alternative to the traditional medical system and a more personalized, high-quality care option for the general population, according to Gifforas.
Internal medicine practitioners are also less likely to see patients in an emergency room, because it is a relatively rare event.
“We’re in a place where we have a large number of people that are sick, and we’re getting an average of one per week, and that’s all they do,” he added.
In fact, the number of ER visits related to chronic conditions like cancer has increased more than 50 percent over the last decade, according a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
“For many of the patients that are going to be cared for by the hospital, they’re going to have an acute illness that’s going to take them out of their usual routine,” Atherson said.
And when people are hospitalized, they are in constant pain, and often have to be on ventilators.
But even if they do get in an ER, the average stay in the hospital is just 30 days, and most patients do not survive.
Internal doctors do not see patients on a regular basis.
They have to spend more time with the patients and are much less likely than other doctors to have patients with a medical condition, such to diabetes, who have to stay in hospital longer.
And while doctors are less likely, internal medicine patients are more likely to be hospitalized for the same condition than doctors from other fields, such cancer specialists, Gilding said.
If a patient has diabetes, the doctor may not see the patient for days at a time because they may have to get a blood test to check for the diabetes, Gondes said.
But if the patient does have diabetes, internal doctors are more than willing to do that, she added.
“The number one concern for internal physicians is that the care they provide is going to cost more because it’s more complicated and they may be dealing with a patient who’s in a situation where they can’t afford it,” Anderlin said.
Some internal medicine doctors may be more than eager to see a patient, but others may not be.
If you want to be more sure of whether you have an internal medicine physician, talk to a doctor who is more experienced, like an internal surgical specialist or an internal radiologist, Anderlins said.
Anderlan said she sees a lot less internal medicine in the general practice.
“I do not feel that they’re necessarily specialists,” she added, noting that there is a difference in their ability to handle a patient’s medical needs.
The Internal Medicine Practice Guide says a physician’s role includes: providing a thorough diagnosis and treatment of a chronic condition; understanding the underlying cause of the condition and how to manage the patient’s condition; monitoring patients’ condition and taking steps to control symptoms; providing patient care and providing patient support; and developing and administering the standard treatment plan for the condition.
Internal physicians also may have a role in the management of chronic illnesses, such diabetes and hypertension, according the American Board of Internal Medical Specialties’ Guidelines on the Care of Chronic Conditions.
If someone has a diagnosis of diabetes or is on a medication to manage their condition, Athersons advice is to seek