What is a physician?

Whether the aim is to become a primary care physician, general practitioner, family doctor, primary care doctor, clinician or internal medicine doctor, anyone who wishes to become a physician must complete undergraduate education, medical school and graduate school, as well as completing a medical residency program.

Physicians must also obtain a license to practice medicine in their state or jurisdiction.

Physicians treat patients at all stages of life, treating a wide variety of symptoms and illnesses.

How to find a doctor

When choosing a physician, it's important to find the best doctor for you and your needs.

A big factor to consider is insurance, and whether a doctor is part of your health care network. By staying in-network, you'll cut down your out-of-pocket costs. To find a doctor in your network, check your insurance company's website.

You'll also want to consider whether you want to see a general practitioner or family doctor that specializes in caring for patients of all ages, or whether you need a physician with more specialized expertise.

Another important factor is hospital affliation. In many cases, it's a good idea to choose a physician affiliated with a nearby hospital that is practical for you.

Family medicine

Family doctors help guide a patients overall care and stress preventive care, which can help extend your lifespan and prevent premature death. Family doctors develop a relationship with their patients that can be helpful in knowing their medical and family history with disease and illness and guiding overall care.

LEARN MORE: Angie's List Guide to Family Medicine

Internal medicine

Doctors of internal medicine, or internists, specialize in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases and other health issues that affect adults. Although some internists go on to subspecialize in areas such as cardiology, sports medicine and oncology, a doctor with internal medicine training can diagnose and provide non-surgical treatments for conditions that affect all bodily organs and systems. 

LEARN MORE: Angie's List Guide to Internal Medicine

Osteopathic medicine

Osteopathic physicians take a holistic approach to patient care, focusing on preventive care and the body's natural ability to heal itself. The core of osteopathic medicine involves a technique called osteopathic manipulative treatment, or OMT, a hands-on diagnosis and treatment for illness and injury.

LEARN MORE: Angie's List Guide to Osteopathic Medicine

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