The Pulse
12:00 am
Tue July 31, 2012

Tough to get a doctor’s appointment?

Being new in town, I needed to find a primary care doctor for my daughter, who is almost 11 years old. I used my health insurance’s web site to find a list of providers. Every one I called said they weren’t taking new patients. I called pediatric specialists, family doctors. I called offices close to home, an hour away, and everywhere in between…to no avail.

Finally I found a walk-in clinic about an hour away that could at least update her immunizations and sign some paperwork for the new school she’ll attend at the end of August.

No wonder. Primary care docs are indeed few and far between. And the problem is getting worse. To wit, from a U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality fact sheet:

“Primary care by some measures is the largest aspect of our health care system. In 2008, 490 million visits were made to primary care physicians—a bit more than half of all visits to physicians’ offices. But primary care’s share of visits has been declining.

The U.S. primary care system is struggling under increasing demands and expectations, diminishing economic margins, and increasing workforce attrition compounded by diminishing recruitment of new physicians, nurses, and physician assistants into primary care. Approximately one-third of physicians currently practice in primary care but fewer than one-fourth of current medical school graduates are going into primary care. The Council on Graduate Medical Education is concerned that the trend, if unchecked, will progress to fewer than one-fifth of medical students specializing in primary care.”

I plan to look into this shortage more, so stay tuned. In the meantime, feel free to share your experiences finding a primary care doctor. Or, if you are primary care doctor, what’s it like these days?

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