National survey predicts growing shortage
of primary care physicians
Add one more report to the mounting stack of evidence that primary care in America is in short supply and in danger of becoming even more so if something isn’t done at the state and federal levels. The Physicians’ Foundation recently released a survey of almost 12,000 physicians that reveals “widespread frustration and concern among primary care physicians nationwide,” according to a news release from the organization.
Nearly eight out of 10 physicians polled believe there is a shortage of primary care physicians in the nation. Half of the responding physicians report that they plan to reduce the number of patients they see or stop practicing entirely over the next three years.
“Going into this project we generally knew about the shortage of physicians; what we didn’t know is how much worse it could get over the next few years,” said Lou Goodman, Ph.D., president of the Physicians’ Foundation. “The bottom line is that the person you’ve known as your family doctor could be getting ready to disappear—and there might not be a replacement.”
The foundation, which was founded in 2003 as part of the settlement of a class-action lawsuit between physicians, medical societies and third-party payers, reports that chief among the reasons physicians cited for their frustration is an increase in non-clinical paperwork, difficulty receiving reimbursement and burdensome government regulations.
The survey results illustrate a major obstacle in reforming the nation’s broken health care delivery system. To redesign the U.S. health care system so that it is based on primary care instead of specialty care will require a substantial increase in the primary care physician workforce. However, the number of graduating medical students choosing to enter primary care specialties continues to diminish.
According to a 2008 report by the National Association of Community Health Centers, Robert Graham Center and the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Texas will need 4,500 additional primary care physicians and other providers by 2015 to care for the state’s underserved population.
In advance of the 81st Texas Legislature, the Texas Primary Care Coalition has recommended that the state strengthen its primary care workforce by improving the state’s loan repayment programs for Texas’ primary care physicians who agree to serve in medically underserved areas, by increasing funding for primary care residency programs, fully funding primary care preceptorship programs, and investing in health information technology for primary care physician practices and residencies. The group is comprised of TAFP, the Texas Pediatric Society and the Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians Services. To read about these and other recommendations, check out PCC’s new report, “The Primary Solution: Mending Texas’ Fractured Health Care System.”
To read more about the Physicians’ Foundation and view their complete survey, go to www.physiciansfoundation.org.