Survey: Faith in primary care’s survival wanes as physician fatigue sets in

Nearly half of respondents worry primary care will be no more in five years.

While the COVID-19 pandemic moves into another phase and case numbers start to rise again, physician fatigue is getting critical.

According to a news release, a survey from The Larry A. Green Center, the Primary Care Collaborative, and 3rd Conversation fielded from July 9 to 13 found that 76 percent of physicians reported the strain on their practice due to the pandemic is low or moderate, but on the individual level 36 percent of physicians say they are constantly lethargic, find it hard to find joy in anything, and/or struggle at times to maintain clear thinking.

This fatigue is having an impact on views of the future of primary care as 40 percent of respondents say they’re worried that primary care will not be around in five years. Meanwhile a further 21 percent say they expect to leave primary care in the next three years, the release says.

“Primary care is the front door to the healthcare system for most Americans, and the door is coming off its hinges,“ Christine Bechtel, co-founder of 3rd Conversation, says in the release. “The fact that 40% of clinicians are worried about the future of primary care is of deep concern, and it’s time for new public policies that value primary care for the common good that it is. Policymakers need look no further than the recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on primary care, which provides a road map to primary care’s future.”

At the same time, primary care physicians are being brought into the fold of COVID-19 vaccinations. More than half of respondents, 52 percent, report having received enough or more than enough vaccines for their patients and 31 percent are partnering with local organizations or government to prioritize people for vaccinations, according to the release.

Though the supply is there, the physicians are still having trouble getting shots into arms, as 53 percent of respondents report that hesitancy among unvaccinated patients is high and hard to counter, the release says.