INTERNAL MEDICINE is a field of medicine dealing with the prevention and treatment of adult disease. Internal Medicine specialists, commonly known as Internists, undertake three years of residency training before seeking Board Certification in Internal Medicine. Internal Medicine is the foundation for many physicians who elect to pursue subspecialties in other fields such as Cardiology, Gastroenterology, and Neurology. Those who choose to remain within the field of Internal Medicine typically work in private practice, community hospitals, or large university physician groups.
Internal Medicine physicians are typically primary care providers who treat patients on an outpatient basis. In addition to providing routine and preventative treatment, Internists often serve as the gateway to care when patients develop symptoms that require advanced care by a specialist or in an emergency department. Hospital-based Internists are known as Hospitalists, one of the newest fields in medicine. Hospitalists treat hospitalized patients before relinquishing care back to a primary care provider upon discharge. They primarily manage conditions such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and complications of diabetes, though they may participate as part of a team to treat complex conditions such as sepsis or stroke. Regardless of whether an Internal Medicine physician is an outpatient or inpatient provider, they must be able to recognize and treat nearly every major medical condition.
Litigation against primary care Internal Medicine physicians commonly involves allegations of missed or delayed diagnosis when a patient should have had additional testing, consultation, or evaluation in an emergency department. Allegations against Hospitalists commonly result from incorrect diagnosis and treatment, delay in consulting specialist care, and medication errors.