Currently in medical care in the United States, there are four main primary care specialties: family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and geriatrics. Internal medicine is primary care for adults, pediatrics is primary care for children and infants, and geriatrics is primary care for seniors. Family medicine, the broadest specialty, is primary care for all ages.
A family medicine physician is a medical ‘home base’ for patients. They treat all ages, all sexes, all organs, and all diseases. They can see every member of the family, from birth through old age. This allows family medicine doctors to develop long-term relationships with their patients and to understand how their patients’ role in the family affects their health. They can provide check-ups, immunizations, screening services, gynecological exams and obstetric care, routine health care, and health counseling. When more specialized care is needed, a family medicine doctor can refer their patients to appropriate specialists. They can become educators and advocates for their patients in the sometimes overwhelming health care system.
As health care changes in this country, family medicine is a growing specialty for families and individuals who are seeking more personalized health care and a more personal relationship with their physician.
Geriatrics is the subspecialty of internal medicine that provides primary care to older adults. Physical health tends to decline with age, and geriatricians work to manage such age-related concerns as chronic illness, frailty, multiple medications, and declining mental health to keep seniors as active and independent as possible.
Some of the most common concerns seen by a geriatrician include:
Mobility issues, including the need for canes and walkers, as well as preventing falls
Osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones, which affects as many as a quarter of all men and half of all women over fifty
Loss of hearing or vision
Incontinence, or the inability to control one’s bladder
Memory loss, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A geriatrician may also provide their patients with comprehensive care that includes checking on their social health. Seniors are at increased risk for poverty, loneliness, abuse, and injuries in the home. As part of their health care, a geriatrician may inquire about family support, living conditions, or the ability of a patient to perform daily self-care tasks.
In some cases, a geriatrician may serve as an advisor to other physicians on a specific case or condition. However, most of the time geriatrics is a primary care specialty, and geriatricians provide routine health care to the older patients they work with.
What is General Pediatrics?
General Pediatrics is defined simply as the medical care of children and adolescents. It is one of the broadest specialties, delivering care to patients from birth through young adulthood, and encompassing everything from preventive health to the management of acute and chronic illness. Pediatricians care for the physical, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and social problems that affect children and teens.
A general pediatrician has a wide variety of responsibilities, including:
The management and treatment of illnesses and injuries
Discouraging the spread of serious illness in children, through education and vaccination
Monitoring patients’ physical and developmental growth
Performing routine health screenings
Promoting a healthy lifestyle
Guiding parents in all areas of parenting, from offering reassurance to giving advice on everything related to their child, such as feeding, safety, and education
Perhaps more than any other patient group, children are products of the environment in which they live. Because of this, pediatricians don’t just treat kids -- they treat communities and families as well. They often become advocates for children and for children’s rights. General pediatricians are physicians dedicated to the health and well-being of young people.
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