The Truth About Direct Primary Care

By reducing their patient panels in order to devote more time and energy to each patient, are direct primary care practices (DPC) worsening the physician shortage?

Many critics of DPC frequently level this charge, but the fact is that the nation’s current supply of primary care physicians is already stretched too thin. The only solution is to increase the supply of physicians – something DPC is uniquely positioned to accomplish.

It’s widely publicized that the United States will be woefully short of primary care physicians in the near future. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that within 10 years we will face a shortfall of between 14,000 to 49,000 primary care doctors.

Even in the absence of direct primary care, the status quo is unsustainable. One could liken our current primary care physician workforce to “butter scraped thin over too much bread”- to borrow a quote from Bilbo Baggins. Too few new doctors are entering primary care practice to serve our growing and aging population. Mid-level providers, with less training, can only backfill a portion of this looming shortfall.

What’s needed more than anything is a fresh new supply of direct primary care physicians to enter practice.

That’s where DPC forms a vital part of the solution, as a fresh, innovative new practice model that is more attractive to physicians both young and old. DPC gives young physicians a viable, fulfilling alternative to hospital employment. It enables burned out physicians to exit the hamster wheel of insurance-driven medicine and continue practicing rather than quitting early.

Direct primary care will help deepen the supply of primary care physicians, and in doing so, help resolve the next decade’s looming physician shortage.

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