State of Primary Care in 2012

August 10, 2012

2012 has been a year of change in healthcare. Find out what your fellow physicians think about where primary care is and where it is headed.

Key Points

Reimbursements, the costs of running a business, and regulatory complexities rank as the top three most pressing issues facing primary care physicians (PCPs).

New data, from a Medical Economics State of Primary Care survey, show that these business-related issues trump concerns related to malpractice, competition, and consolidation of practices within the community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 956 million physician office visits occur each year, and about 60% of those visits are directed to PCPs. The most frequent reason for the visit remains the general medical examination, the CDC adds, with hypertension ranking the second most frequent reason for an office visit.

According to a 2012 Health Affairs report, doctor and clinical services represented 20% of the $2.3 trillion spent on healthcare in the United States, and hospital care comprised 31% of the pie.

The 10,000-foot view of healthcare services might depict a robust and growing specialty economy. For some, it is. At the ground level, you and your colleagues are experiencing a much different reality.

In fact, healthcare in 2012 could be characterized as going through a kind of bipolar disorder: While the emphasis is on reducing costs, the U.S. government, through the adoption of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is opening up access to care. The demand, some doctors say, doesn't necessarily translate into enough income to keep some primary care practices economically viable.

In the public sector, further evidence is reported from a Physicians Foundation report titled "The Future of Medical Practice" calling for Medicare reimbursement increases.