By Scott Files, contributor Nov 20, 2018
Primary care physicians, we know you’re busy, but are you staying on
top of the trends in primary care today? They may very well affect your current
or future practice.
Here are some of the top issues and trends in primary care to be aware
of as we near the end of 2018:
The need to expand the primary care physician workforce.
Experts continue to predict physician shortages across the spectrum of
medical specialties, with the greatest concern focused on the shortage
of physicians in primary care.
According to the 2018 update of “The Complexities of Physician Supply
and Demand: Projections from 2016 to 2030,” by the Association of American
Medical Colleges (AAMC), the shortage of primary care physicians could range
between 14,800 and 49,300 by 2030.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) predicts that
about 13,900 primary care physicians will be needed just to remove the Health
Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) designation from the areas currently
But there is some good news. In 2018, the number of medical students
and graduates who matched to family medicine residency programs hit an all-time high, according to the American Academy of
Family Physicians (AAFP): a total of 3,535 matched to family
medicine programs, which was an increase of 298 from the previous year. That
momentum and growth needs to continue, noted Windel Stracener, MD, a family
physician who practices in Richmond, Indiana.
Family Medicine for America’s Health, which is a collaboration of
family medicine organizations, hopes to increase the percentage of senior medical
students choosing family medicine from 12 percent to
25 percent by 2030.
If payment and administrative burdens could be appropriately dealt
with, it might be enough to sway more students into the primary care pipeline,
said Stracener. “When all of that is taken into account and streamlined and they’re
adequately and appropriately paid, I think you would see more students start to
choose those professions,” he said.
“And I think that we have to let students know what we do,” he added.
“I think to some degree, we are too much of a well-kept secret.”
READ ALSO: The
Evolving Primary Care Physician Shortage
2. A growing emphasis on physician
well-being and the risks of burnout
Another issue that’s frequently cited as relevant to all physicians is
burnout. Experts stress that the importance of physician well-being must be
taken into account, or the system risks losing even more physicians.
“More physicians are beginning to understand what burnout is and how it
affects them,” said Stracener. “It’s sometimes difficult to notice in
READ ALSO: The
Leading Cause of Physician Burnout
3. A greater focus on social
determinants of health
Have you been paying closer attention to the conditions affecting your
patients’ health and well-being, including where your patients grow up, live
and work? More primary care physicians are monitoring these social determinants
of health to find out how they affect the health of their patients and address
The AAFP recently launched The
EveryONE Project to aid family physicians in addressing health
disparities that affect their patients.“It’s not a new issue,” said Stracener. “But people realizing what a
role it plays in the health care of our patients, it’s still fairly new, but I
think the education is getting out there.”
4. Payment reform
Changes have been underway for a while now, as the Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been moving away from the traditional fee-for-service
payment model toward value-based reimbursement.
Primary care physicians are slowly making the move and updating their
care coordination capabilities and health IT infrastructure to accommodate a
shift toward value-based reimbursement. A 2017 survey from the AAFP and Humana
registered an increase in family physicians pursuing value-based care
5. Changes in employment
Medicine has experienced a trend toward physician employment in recent
years, as the number
of independent practices has declined. So, jobs in primary care could look a little
different in the future, compared to a generation ago.
If you’re looking for a new job in primary care, don’t be afraid to ask
questions when you’re searching.
“Always inquire about physician involvement in leadership,” said Angel
Mena, MD, chair of Halo Communications Physician Advisory Council. “Our
clinical teams need to work hand-in-hand with administrators to achieve
quality, safety and financial goals. Also, it’s important to know about the
practice’s involvement in population health initiatives, penalties, and
incentives, innovation, safety and quality, communications platforms, and
alignments with health system quality metrics.”
A possible option for some primary care
physicians looking for a new employment setting is a locum
tenens job, since primary care doctors are in the highest demand. In
fact, 43.5 percent of healthcare facility managers surveyed reported that they
had used locum tenens primary care physicians within the past year, according
to Staff Care’s 2017
Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends.
CARE places physicians and advanced
practitioners in locum tenens assignments across the country. CONNECT
with a recruiter to learn more.
FIND PRIMARY CARE JOBS