It appears the forces are aligned to bolster the number of primary care physicians.
Increasing pay has been discussed as one solution, however, any effect from such a move won’t be seen for years to come.
Joe Paduda says we need more immediate results. Training more mid-level providers, like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, or enticing more foreign-trained doctors isn’tt the answer because they too will be drawn to specialty care, and even when including them, there still will be a significant primary care shortage.
So, how about re-training specialists to become primary care doctors?
“It would be far easier, faster, and cheaper to re-train these physicians to take on more primary care responsibilities, albeit primary care with an orientation towards their specialty,” writes Mr. Paduda.
“Would this be difficult, and expensive, and meet with strong resistance from those docs?
Absolutely. But on balance it would be much easier, and faster, than waiting at least eight years for the supply of primary care docs to begin to meet anticipated demand.”
Out-of-the-box thinking, and probably will never happen. But think about it. The primary care shortage is already forcing many specialists to provide preventive services. If they were paid more for office visits, and less for procedures, you just might see more proceduralists take on primary care responsibilities.