Choosing the right PCP for your healthcare needs

Choosing the right PCP for your healthcare needs

Choosing between a family medicine (FM) and Internal Medicine (IM) doctor can be an important decision for your overall health and well-being. Both specialties are committed to providing primary care and are considered primary care physicians (PCP), but there are some essential differences to consider.

"A family medicine doctor is skilled in caring for patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly, making them an excellent choice if you seek comprehensive healthcare for your whole family," says Chau B. Nguyen, DO, Internal Medicine at ARC Georgetown.

"On the other hand, an internal medicine doctor specializes in caring for adults and focuses on preventing, diagnosing, and treating adult diseases. If you are an adult seeking specialized care for complex medical conditions, an internal medicine doctor might be the right fit. We, however, do not specialize in gynecological issues."

What kinds of patients do family medicine providers see, and what care do they provide?

Family medicine providers see a wide range of patients across all age groups and diverse backgrounds. They are trained to provide comprehensive and continuous medical care to patients of all ages, from infants to seniors. They provide preventive care, routine check-ups, and can manage chronic as well as screen for health issues.

What kinds of patients do internists see, and what care do they provide?

Internal medicine providers, also known as internists, primarily focus on providing comprehensive and specialized medical care to adult patients. In addition to providing preventive medicine — health screenings, vaccinations, and lifestyle counseling to prevent the onset or progression of diseases — they are also trained to manage a broad spectrum of medical conditions that commonly affect adults and are often referred to as "doctors for adults."

"Due to their focus on adult medicine and expertise in managing complex medical conditions, internal medicine doctors serve as primary care physicians for many adults and are often consulted for difficult or puzzling medical cases," says Dr. Nguyen. "They provide continuity of care for their patients and coordinate with other specialists when necessary to ensure comprehensive and well-rounded healthcare."

Who sees family medicine doctors:

  • Children
  • Adults
  • Seniors
  • Patients with acute illnesses
  • Patients with chronic conditions

Who sees internal medicine doctors:

  • Adults
  • Seniors
  • Patients with chronic conditions
  • Patients with complex medical conditions
  • Patients with undiagnosed medical issues
  • Referrals from other specialists


Family medicine physicians also enter a three-year residency program in family medicine. This residency covers a broad range of medical specialties, including pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, geriatrics, and more. The training emphasizes caring for patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly, and focuses on comprehensive, whole-person care.

Internal medicine physicians enter a three-year residency program that provides in-depth training in diagnosing and treating medical conditions that affect adults. Internists could then go into fellowship programs for other subspecialties within internal medicine, such as cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, and more.

"Both specialties play critical roles in primary care and offer unique perspectives and expertise in their respective fields," adds Dr. Nguyen.

Make an appointment

You can make an appointment online with one of our PCPs through ARC MyChart or by calling an ARC Clinic near you.

If you are new to ARC, it's easy to establish care with an ARC IM or FM doctor.

  1. Simply go to ARC Family Medicine or ARC Internal Medicine and click the BOOK NOW
  2. Answer a few questions, then choose the ESTABLISH PATIENT CARE

Tags: Internal Medicine, Family Medicine