Hospitalist vs. Internist: What’s the Difference?

For everyday health issues, you visit a primary care doctor, also known as a family doctor. However, when you need more intensive care — such as at a hospital — your primary care doctor may refer you to a hospitalist doctor, or simply a hospitalist.

A hospitalist is a doctor who provides care for patients at a hospital. They have the same education and training as your primary care doctor, but specialize in providing hospital care. They may also have other specialties such as pediatric (child-centered) medicine, internal medicine, or family medicine.

A hospitalist doctor focuses on patient care inside a hospital, rather than on a specific organ or medical issue, like an allergist or a cardiologist does.

Hospitalist doctors are not the same as emergency doctors, though they may spend time in the emergency room (ER). Their primary focus is treating specific illnesses or diseases, and ensuring a healthy recovery before sending you back to your primary care doctor.

While hospitalists practice solely in hospital environments, internists practice in both hospital and outpatient settings. The duration of their involvement with patients also differs; internists may work with their patients all throughout their adult lives, which can result in long-term patient relationships.

HOSPITALIST VS INTERNIST | Similarities & Differences – Dr. Eva B

What is an internist?

An internist is a doctor who specializes in internal medicine or the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of internal disease. Hospitalists often specialize in internal medicine, but doctors who work as internists have different jobs than hospitalists. While they may share similar duties, internists treat patients in outpatient settings such as doctors offices. They may also visit their patients in the hospital when necessary, but most of their work takes place in a private practice. Types of medical conditions internists diagnose, treat and monitor include:

Internists often develop long-term relationships with their patients and some treat them over the course of their entire adult lives. They provide ongoing patient care before, during and after a patient becomes an inpatient at a hospital. Patients who see internists visit them for follow-up care after release from the hospital, and their internist helps them develop a care plan based on newly diagnoses conditions and other changes to their health.

What is a hospitalist?

A hospitalist is a physician who treats hospital patients. The types of services and treatments they provide depend on their specialty. Hospitalists include any doctor who works only in a hospital setting instead of maintaining a separate practice. Most hospitalists specialize in internal medicine, but other areas of practice include:

While emergency room doctors provide care for patients who need urgent medical attention, hospitalists treat patients who become admitted into the hospital, known as inpatients. A hospitalist may order diagnostic tests, prescribe medications and monitor patient health to determine treatment plans. Sometimes, a patients own doctor may visit them at the hospital to treat them. However, doctors who have private practices have patients to attend to in their offices as well, so hospitalists provide treatment in the meantime.

Differences between a hospitalist vs. an internist

Hospitalists and internists share many similarities, but they also have distinctive differences. If youre considering a career as a hospitalist or an internist, exploring these differences can help you visualize both positions and choose the one that fits your goals and preferences. Here are the primary differences between a hospitalist and an internist:

Primary job duties

The primary job duties of a hospitalist depend on their specialty. For example, an obstetric hospitalist cares for an expectant mother, while an internal medicine hospitalist diagnosis and treats a range of conditions based on the patients needs. Internal medicine hospitalists and internists specialize in the same area of medicine, but hospitalists treat patients on a short-term basis while internists provide regular care for a patient in inpatient and outpatient settings. Hospitalists have the important role of caring for patients when their internist is managing outpatient concerns or if the patient has yet to choose an internist.

Average salaries

Work schedules

Hospitalists usually have varied schedules based on the size of the hospitals they work in and the number of patients they treat daily. Hospitals operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week, so many hospitalists work weekends, evening or overnight shifts and holidays. They may have set days off, or their schedule could differ from week to week depending on the hospitals patient population. As private practitioners, internists typically have a more regular schedule than hospitalists with weekends, evenings and holidays off work. Although, some internists see their patients in the hospital outside office hours.

Working environments

Hospitalists work solely in hospitals, so they only treat patients in inpatient settings. While they may have some patients who frequent the hospital, they treat most patients for a short period and address the immediate issues that brought the patient to the hospital. Hospitalists refer to the patients medical records to determine appropriate measures of treatment and refer the patient to an internist upon release to continue receiving care. Internists spend most of their time treating patients in outpatient settings such as doctors offices, but they sometimes visit their established patients in the hospital to treat them.

Patient demographics

Both hospitalists and internists treat people of all genders, but the ages of their patients may vary. Internists only treat adult patients. Young adults who surpass the age limit for seeing a pediatrician can begin seeing an internist for general medical care and continue to work with the same doctor throughout every stage of their adult lives. Hospitalists who specialize in internal medicine also treat only adult patients, but those who work in different areas of medicine see patients of different ages. For example, a pediatric hospitalist only treats patients under the age of 18.

Treatment goals

Although hospitalists have many of the same duties and competencies as internists, working in a hospital involves a different care dynamic than working in a doctors office. Hospitalists meet new patients with different concerns every day, and they may face rare or unexpected concerns that they must treat quickly and accurately. Their goal is to improve and maintain the health of an entire hospital or hospital department. Internists delve more deeply into the extensive medical histories of regular patients. Their goal is to determine care and treatment measures on a more personal basis.


Are all hospitalists internists?

Internists practicing hospital medicine are frequently called “hospitalists.” Although not all hospitalists are required to be internists, the nature of internal medicine training uniquely prepares internists for hospital medicine practice.

What is the difference between a hospitalist and a doctor?

A hospitalist is a doctor who provides care for patients at a hospital. They have the same education and training as your primary care doctor, but specialize in providing hospital care. They may also have other specialties such as pediatric (child-centered) medicine, internal medicine, or family medicine.

Are hospitalists real doctors?

The American Board of Physician Specialists defines hospitalists as “… physicians who have dedicated their careers to hospitalized patients.” Simply put, hospitalists are medical specialists who most often earn a residency in internal medicine and are certified in hospital medicine.

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