Match Day a Reminder of Primary Care's Struggles

Elyas Bakhtiari, for HealthLeaders Media , March 18, 2010

I've written several times in the last few years about this discrepancy and the problems it creates, as well as a range of possible solutions. CMS is working on redistributing reimbursement slightly from specialists to primary care doctors, and healthcare reform will include additional payment bonuses for PCPs. International medical graduates play a big role in filling the gap and keeping primary care afloat.

But these measures aren't going to reverse the trend overnight. To borrow an analogy, the healthcare system is an ocean liner, not a speedboat. Increasing reimbursement 10% or so is a change in the right direction, but the imbalance took years to build up and will probably take a while to correct.

Improving the system of primary care will require more than additional physicians. We need new models of care and better communication between doctors. New technologies and better use of nonphysicians will help.

A good indicator of progress each year will be the results of Match Day, and how many new physicians find it worthwhile to take the road less traveled.

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Elyas Bakhtiari is a freelance editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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