Primary Care Physicians – Are There Enough of Them
Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) have been an integral part of the healthcare system. They play a vital role in population health management and preventive care while delivering personalized and effective treatment.
Primary care doctors offer chronic care management, evaluation for emerging health issues, and specialist referrals. But, does the U.S. have enough number of Primary Care Physicians?
Despite PCPs playing an important role in the healthcare system, around 28 percent of men and 17 percent of women reported in 2018 that they had no personal physician. Alaska, Nevada, and Texas are the topmost states with the maximum percentage of adults reporting that they had no direct care doctor. Among the most probable causes behind this shortage, physical barriers to healthcare access like transportation, insurance coverage, and provider shortages are some of the common ones.
Family practice and internal medicine are the two most common specialties of direct care doctors with around 126,000 and 138,000 registered providers. Though the numbers might seem to be huge, industry leaders are concerned about the increasing demand of an aging population with growing chronic health issues. It seems that this trend will soon outnumber the physicians.
A research carried out in 2019 showed that for every 10 additional Primary Care Physicians per 100,000 patients, the associated life expectancy increases by around 52 days. However, the density of physicians has dropped from 46.6 to 41.4 per 100,000 people within the period of 2005 and 2015. The impact of the decrease in the number of physicians varies from one region to another. The population in rural areas are already vulnerable and are being exposed to preventable diseases due to the decrease in the number of primary care doctors.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have taken some simple, yet effective steps to increase the number of providers throughout the country. They have initiated a reward program for physicians who offer advanced preventive care. Moreover, physicians will receive financial rewards for enhanced care management, especially for treating patients with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
Hopefully, people will witness a slow but steady rise in the number of Primary Care Physicians in the upcoming years.