A new study in the Annals of Family Medicine projects the country will need about 52,000 more primary care doctors by 2025. The study’s authors calculated that we currently have about 206,000.They based their projections on the number of patients primary care docs currently see in office visits per year, and how many might be expected based on how much our population is set to grow, how much more an aging population will need primary care, and how many people will have access to a primary care doctor for the first time as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
The studies authors, however, acknowledge that their projects don’t take into account the roles that nurse practitioners and physician assistants play in providing primary care. In my own experience, that role has been huge. But it’s one of many reports to sound the alarm: we don’t have enough doctors engaged in direct patient primary care to meet the needs of a growing, aging, and newly-insured population.
Read it here.
So what’s to be done? Does the burden rest solely on graduate medical education programs and enticing doctors-to-be to enter primary care? Some would say that part of the solution has to be in realigning the way we compensate doctors, that rather than paying per service, we pay them for healthy outcomes. The way things work now, primary care doctors simply earn less, and, to some bright, young medical students considering a future clouded by debt, that might not look like the smartest path to follow.
(Shameless plug! You can read more about the experiences of future doctors, by the way, on our Future Docs blog.)