Internists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of diseases and conditions. They provide general medical care to adults; however, they usually prefer to focus in one or two areas of medicine such as cardiology, endocrinology, or infectious diseases. Internists may be involved in primary care or subspecialty care, depending on the individual physician’s practice. Internists can provide preventive health services, diagnose and treat acute and chronic illnesses, interpret laboratory tests, interpret diagnostic imaging results, order and interpret hospitalizations, refer patients to other specialists and order rehabilitation therapies.
A unique aspect of internists’ practice is the ability to look at a patient’s overall health. Unlike specialists, who focus on specific parts of the body, internists often diagnose and manage multiple chronic diseases and complex problems which involve many organ systems. They can also evaluate and manage mental health issues, making sure that the whole person is taken care of.
In addition to their clinical work, internists are also involved in research and teaching. They often lead clinical trials and mentor medical students and residents. As part of their commitment to improve the quality of health care, internists also develop and implement guidelines for patient management.