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    How can physicians combat industry shortages and meet patient demands?

    In the next few years, a major shortage of primary care physicians will sweep across the United States. By 2025, the number of physicians needed will fall short by 46,000 to 90,000, according to a recent study from the Association of American Medical Colleges.


    RELATED READING: Combating the impending physician shortage


    A number of factors contribute to the shortage. First, primary care physicians (PCPs) typically earn less than specialists. As a result, fewer medical students are pursuing careers in general practice. According to 2017 LinkedIn salary data of the highest-paying occupations and median base salaries in the U.S., physicians make an average of $220,000 a year. Four types of specialists—cardiologists, radiologists, anesthesiologists and surgeons—top the list with median base salaries of $356,000, $355,000, $350,000 and $338,000, respectively.

    Second, some PCPs have not embraced technology advancements to satisfy the modern patient’s needs and expectations. Other types of healthcare providers, however, have started offering patients convenient services like virtual visits to reduce travel and waiting times. Consequently, some patients have chosen specialists and other types of healthcare providers offering robust telemedicine and virtual visit options instead of primary care physicians for their healthcare needs. This, in turn, affects PCPs’ opportunities to grow their practices and boost revenue.

    As a primary care physician, how will you adapt your practice to meet new and increasing patient demands while addressing business challenges brought on by the impending shortage? With value-based approaches taking over traditional fee-for-service payment models, how can you deliver quality care to patients in condensed periods of time?

    To run your practice efficiently and stay competitive, you should strive to provide patients with convenient services, think creatively when developing new organizational structures and build strong relationships with insurance providers and payers. As always, keep your goals and bottom line in mind when evaluating new strategies to optimize your practice. 

    1.     Evolve your healthcare delivery channels to match patient expectations

    Patients expect convenience. In this technology-driven world, the expectation of immediacy is a reality. Don’t drive your patients away to other physicians, urgent care centers or emergency rooms because your next available appointment is a month away. Consider modernizing your delivery of care with services such as virtual visits delivered through a patient portal or app to attend to patients when they need you.


    POPULAR ON OUR SITE: Top 11 gripes physicians have with patients


    PCPs spend an average of 14 to 16 minutes on in-office patient visits, according to Modern Healthcare. However, telemedicine platforms can cut patient visits down to an average of two minutes. Virtual visits will not replace in-person care, but they can effectively supplement care and boost patient satisfaction rates.

    Next: "You do the math"

    Kevin N. Fine, MHA
    Kevin N. Fine, MHA, is a director of healthcare advisory services in the Miami office of Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and ...


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    • [email protected]
      In all respect, Mr. Fine, are you serious? My partners and I have been in primary care for collectively nearly 100 years. We have witnessed a wonderful primary care specialty eroded and now controlled by bean counters and suits. Doctors no longer "doctor", they record, work EMR tasks, and search for morsels scattered by third parties. Our incomes are controlled by the "big" guys who dole out promises if certain "standards" are met, or bonuses for signups to gain control of our practices. We are chess pieces on a large play board and have no say or control anymore. Your suggestions ballon overhead and steepen the spiral to burnout. However, we are stubborn and changed our 6000 patient traditional practice to a 1500 patient Direct Primary Care model. No third parties, no forms, no handcuffs,no hassles. 30 patients per day is now 12 patients per day. All have long educational visits with us. We no longer have a waiting room, instead a reception lobby since no one waits. Free beverages, WIFI, and personal care from the parking lot to the exam room. We run on time and the patients are delighted. Our overhead dropped by two thirds. This is the only survival model for primary care. A piece of heaven has returned to Central Indiana. [email protected]
    • [email protected]
      Some crazy ideas. I do functional medicine. I signed out of medicare 2 years ago. I'm getting ready to move to a concierge practice and getting rid of the two remaining insurance plans as I'm tired of the rules and regs that say spend less time with patients and more time on documentation so you can get paid less. I already do phone and Skype consults/visits which many patients like, but they also last 15 or 30 minutes which patients really love. The number one complaint I hear from a new consult is that their doc only spends a few minutes with them and hardly looks at them as they are entering data in the EMR and hardly touches them yet they can read a full exam in their handy portal when they review the visit note - fraud anyone??? I very much doubt that any primary care doc can figure out anything useful in a 2 minute telemedicine visit. That's why my practice is booming - I spend TIME with patients and we figure out what's really wrong with them and help them heal. What a novel concept!! Color me a Marcus Welby fan but that's what primary care is about - low tech and high touch - not hiring more PA's or NPs to herd more patients through to make more money......
    • Anonymous
      Oh yes, you can embrace the technology and still take less from the insurers. You can be scrutinized how you treat pain or anxiety. You can work later into the day to treat patients who have no loyalty to your practice and will go to an urgent care center rather than wait thirty minutes to see you. You can give up going to treat your patients in the hospital since most now have hospitalists who do a crappy job and make your job harder. You can also tell them all to pound sand and enjoy life! I chose early retirement and it is wonderful. Have lunch in the sun and enjoy a cigar.
    • [email protected]
      Interesting that he doesn't mention hiring PA's or NP's as a source of income. Our office has hired 2 PA's and 2 NP's and we were able to open two more offices. We're making a lot of money and everyone is getting well paid!

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