Primary Care Physicians are becoming increasingly hard to find, and the wait time to see them is getting longer and longer (30% longer between 2014 and 2017, according to Merritt Hawkins). Wait times are up to around 24 days per visit. Even worse, in rural areas primary care physicians are almost becoming non-existent.
The question becomes, is it because fewer medical and osteopathic school students want to go into the profession? And if so, why? The demand for these doctors is increasing every day, but there is still a need. One of the most speculated reasons for this is the pay. Primary Care Physicians are among the lowest-paid physicians in the United States, and with mounting school debt, students find themselves more interested in the higher paid positions.
The Washington Post noted in 2019 that “the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of between 21,100 and 55,200 primary care physicians by 2032.” It goes on to state “studies have shown that states with a higher ratio of primary care physicians have better health and lower rates of mortality. Patients who regularly see a primary care physician also have lower health costs than those without one.”
Obviously, there is a benefit so what is being done to fix this problem? Some schools, like Kaiser Permanente and NYU, are waiving tuition costs to lower the financial burden for students with the hopes they will go into a primary care role. A more radical approach is the suggestion that Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistants should take over the functions of the positions because the cost-benefit relationship is better for both the hospital and medical provider.
In any case, this issue doesn’t seem like it has a short-term fix, which means backlogs of patients trying to get into their primary care physicians, which can lead to burnout and other issues. Williams & Nickl focus their entire practice on licensure defense, and helping physicians called in front of the Illinois Medical Licensing and Medical Disciplinary Boards. If you are a primary care physician and have run into issues because of an overloaded schedule, our firm can help get you survive any inquiry by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.