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    Can anything be done to solve the PCP shortage crisis?

    Last year, just one in 10 U.S. medical school graduates went into family medicine and the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that the U.S. will be short by as many as 43,000 primary care doctors by 2030.


    Further reading: How federal policy has worsened the U.S. primary care shortage


    Wayne Lipton, founder and CEO of Concierge Choice Physicians, a concierge group with more than 200 affiliate physicians in 23 states, believes that being a primary care physician is not as appealing as it was in the past.

    “As a nation, we undervalue the role of the PCPs. This is a direct result of the workload, level of detail reporting, exposure to liability, compensation, control of care decisions, competition with lower level providers, financial obligations from education and opportunities for growth,” he says. “It has also become less appealing to entrepreneurial physicians and more appealing to those who just want a salary and a shift.”

    G. Richard Olds, MD, president of St. George’s University, notes that while U.S. medical schools aren’t producing enough primary care physicians, the shortage of doctors is also uneven. For instance, in California, there are 86 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents in the San Francisco Bay Area, but just 48 per 100,000 in the largely rural San Joaquin Valley and 43 per 100,000 in the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles.

    “That’s partly due to the socioeconomic status of U.S. medical students. A staggering 80% come from families that are in the top two-fifths of economic status,” he says. “This makes it less likely for those students to work in underserved communities.”

    Additionally, most of the faculty in U.S. medical schools are specialists, and Olds feels they look down on students who go into primary care.

    “Most training in U.S. medical schools is inpatient-based and at large, tertiary referral hospitals that focus on specialty care,” he says. “Students spend little or no time in the outpatient and community settings, which means they’re less likely to go into primary care.” 


    Blog: Here is the PCP crisis solution and it's simple


    Boyd R. Buser, DO, dean of the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine feels a contributing factor for the decreased percentage of physicians entering primary care is the increasing debt load that graduating medical students are incurring, coupled with the fact that primary care specialties are among the lower paying specialty choices. 

    “Despite this financial disincentive, we still see a robust number of graduating osteopathic physicians choosing primary care residencies,” he says. “Osteopathic principles of patient care, with an emphasis on disease prevention and wellness, lend themselves especially well to primary care.”

    Next: The government's role

    Keith Loria
    Keith Loria is a contributing writer to Medical Economics.


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