In the next few years, a major shortage of primary care physicians will sweep across the United States. By 2025, the number of physicians needed will fall short by 46,000 to 90,000, according to a recent study from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
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A number of factors contribute to the shortage. First, primary care physicians (PCPs) typically earn less than specialists. As a result, fewer medical students are pursuing careers in general practice. According to 2017 LinkedIn salary data of the highest-paying occupations and median base salaries in the U.S., physicians make an average of $220,000 a year. Four types of specialists—cardiologists, radiologists, anesthesiologists and surgeons—top the list with median base salaries of $356,000, $355,000, $350,000 and $338,000, respectively.
Second, some PCPs have not embraced technology advancements to satisfy the modern patient’s needs and expectations. Other types of healthcare providers, however, have started offering patients convenient services like virtual visits to reduce travel and waiting times. Consequently, some patients have chosen specialists and other types of healthcare providers offering robust telemedicine and virtual visit options instead of primary care physicians for their healthcare needs. This, in turn, affects PCPs’ opportunities to grow their practices and boost revenue.
As a primary care physician, how will you adapt your practice to meet new and increasing patient demands while addressing business challenges brought on by the impending shortage? With value-based approaches taking over traditional fee-for-service payment models, how can you deliver quality care to patients in condensed periods of time?
To run your practice efficiently and stay competitive, you should strive to provide patients with convenient services, think creatively when developing new organizational structures and build strong relationships with insurance providers and payers. As always, keep your goals and bottom line in mind when evaluating new strategies to optimize your practice.
1. Evolve your healthcare delivery channels to match patient expectations
Patients expect convenience. In this technology-driven world, the expectation of immediacy is a reality. Don’t drive your patients away to other physicians, urgent care centers or emergency rooms because your next available appointment is a month away. Consider modernizing your delivery of care with services such as virtual visits delivered through a patient portal or app to attend to patients when they need you.
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PCPs spend an average of 14 to 16 minutes on in-office patient visits, according to Modern Healthcare. However, telemedicine platforms can cut patient visits down to an average of two minutes. Virtual visits will not replace in-person care, but they can effectively supplement care and boost patient satisfaction rates.