National shortage of primary care physicians felt locallyFrom Spotlight on Health - Summer 2010
By Allen Horn, MD, MBA, FACPE, President, CentraCare Clinic
Despite evidence that nations with strong primary care systems (Family and Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Pediatrics) have better-quality health with lower cost, our nation’s system of primary care is horribly broken. Because of longer hours, lower pay, less prestige and more administrative hassles, there is a growing shortage of primary care physicians across the United States. This lack of primary care physicians has become an increasing problem in Central Minnesota, particularly in Family and Internal Medicine. The number of U.S.-trained Family Medicine students has decreased more than 50 percent in the past five years. In Internal Medicine, less than 2 percent of medical students are going into office-based Internal Medicine.
What does this mean to you?
The Family and Internal Medicine physician shortage has severely restricted access to primary care National shortage of primary care physicians felt locally at CentraCare Clinic and resulted in long appointment delays for new patients, as well as access challenges for established patients. Currently a new-patient appointment with an Internal Medicine physician may require a wait of a year or longer. Patients already established with a physician will continue to be seen by one of our providers as needed. However, individuals needing to establish care with a new primary care physician will experience delays and should call one of our primary care clinics as soon as possible.
Addressing this provider shortage will require major national system reform and will need to be a critical element of any successful health care reform. Until reform impacts the supply of primary care physicians, we need our physicians, staff and patients to work together to bring about innovative ways to lessen the effects of the shortage and meet the community’s health care needs.
CentraCare Health System remains committed to providing excellent service and the highest quality of care to those we serve.
To address this impending crisis, we:
- Expanded the University of Minnesota/St. Cloud Hospital Family Medicine Residency program from 12 to 15 residents.
- Will continue to aggressively recruit primary care physicians.
- Hire temporary contract physicians whenever possible.
- Will develop new models of care to improve efficiency and increase capacity.
- Have expanded the use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide patient care.