General Practitioner, Family Doctor, Internist: What Kind Of Doctor Do I Need?

Once upon a time, doctors and medicines were scarce and expensive. But today, thanks to globalization and advancements in medical science, doctors and medicine are now more available, accessible and affordable. As a result, mankind’s gradually deteriorating life expectancy has started rising, and we owe it all to doctors and medicines. Despite having remedies for most illnesses, mankind’s sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle choices make them more prone to illness. Hence one must develop a good relationship with their primary care doctor. But who exactly is a primary care doctor?

Primary Care Doctor- Introduction

Unlike specialized doctors, primary care doctors are expertly trained to handle various health concerns and serve as the frontline warrior in the battle against ill-health. They can help in the care of general health and wellbeing. Primary care doctors or primary care physicians are the ‘regular’ doctors that we meet once or twice a year for an overall health check-up or the kind of doctor that we visit if we catch a cold, fever or bodily injury. Apart from regular check-ups and treating common health conditions, primary care doctors also provide preventive health care and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes or flu.

There are three types of primary care doctors: General Practitioner, Family doctor and Internist. While these terms are used synonymously, they have different roles and functions.

What kind of doctor do I need?

Now comes the challenging question of ‘What kind of doctor one needs and when’. As mentioned earlier, the general practitioner, family doctor and Internist all perform unique activities. Despite being grouped as primary care doctors, they address specific age groups and health conditions associated with that age group.

General Practitioner

The General Practitioner takes a look at patients of all ages. They are trained to handle a variety of health conditions. But in case there is a need for specialized care, general practitioners refer patients to specialized doctors. General Practitioners are the most sought out doctors due to their ability to help manage various illnesses. They are the first person anyone goes to, whatever be the health condition. 

General practitioners are more common and sought out in rural settlements where specialized doctors with specialized labs are rare. The importance of GP is huge in the role of GP in the health care sector.

Family Doctor

In case you are looking for a doctor whom you can rely on for your family’s overall health care, then the person you are looking for is a family doctor. Like the general practitioner, the family doctor is trained to care for the health care needs of all age groups. Unlike the general practitioner, they are also trained in specialities such as paediatrics, obstetrics and geriatrics. Family doctors are also known to make home visits.


The Internist or doctor of internal medicine cares for adults and may even specialize in senior citizens’ care. They are specially trained to care for managing chronic conditions that affect adults.