Widespread HIT Acceptance May Curb Looming Physician Shortage

Family Practice Recertification, October 2013, Volume 31, Issue 1

Though the Association of American Medical College (AAMC) has projected that the US will face a shortage of 65,800 primary care providers (PCPs) and family practitioners by 2025, the anticipated growth in the implementation of health information technology (HIT) over the next 18 years may offset the demand for those physicians.

Though the Association of American Medical College (AAMC) has projected that the US will face a shortage of 65,800 primary care providers (PCPs) and family practitioners by 2025, the anticipated growth in the implementation of health information technology (HIT) over the next 18 years may offset the demand for those physicians, according to data presented at Frost & Sullivan’s 18th annual Medical Devices 2013 conference.

In his “Healthcare 2025: Personalization Without PCP” presentation, Greg Caressi, senior vice president of healthcare and life sciences at the market analysis firm, cited a Cisco survey of 6,000 people worldwide that discovered the majority of patients are willing to embrace telehealth and other mobile health technologies for their primary care needs. In fact, 76% of the patients said access to care is more important than physical human contact with their care provider, according to the survey. Caressi added in his presentation that a single designated PCP is no longer seen as a “have-to-have” for at least some portion of the patient population, given that consumers currently have high levels of trust in technology platforms.

“With healthcare shifting to be more like traditional service industries, more value must be delivered through technology and lesser-trained clinical personnel. The role of the PCP, while not being eliminated, must change,” Caressi said in a press release about his presentation. “Combine this with the fact that 70% of patients would trust an automated device for diagnosis and advice on whether to see a doctor … and it is clear that the integration of IT solutions will significantly impact the way healthcare is delivered.”

For example, Caressi noted that physician assistants and nurse practitioners leveraging remote HIT can sufficiently assess and screen patients to determine if specialist referrals are needed, which has traditionally been a key role of PCPs and family medicine physicians.