More Evidence of Primary Care Crisis

December 4, 2008
Special Feature

Surveys that reveal a crisis in the healthcare system may not be news, but a recent poll by the Physicians' Foundation underscores just how bad the future of primary care medicine could be.

Surveys that reveal a crisis in the healthcare system may not be news, but a recent poll by the Physicians’ Foundation underscores just how bad the future of primary care medicine could be. According to survey results, about 150,000 doctors, almost half the practicing primary care doctors in the country, plan to cut back on the number of patients that they see, or retire from medical practice altogether, over the next 3 years. About 60% say they would not recommend medicine as a career.

Among the causes of the doctors’ frustration are an increased paperwork load, less time to spend with patients, and difficulties getting reimbursement from third-party payers. More than 90% of the doctors who responded to the survey say they spend more time on non-clinical paperwork than they did 3 years ago, and almost two-thirds said they had less time for patient care as a result. Three-quarters of the doctors say they are either working at full capacity or are overextended.

About 78% of the doctors believe that a crisis in primary care is already here, a finding that is not a good sign for those healthcare planners who would like to expand access to medical care through universal health insurance. According to the Physician’s Foundation, increasing the number of Americans with health coverage without expanding the number of primary care physicians could make access to care more difficult rather than easier.