Part of the reason for the current shortage of family physicians harkens back to the perception in some medical circles just a few years ago that primary care was a specialty best to be avoided unless you wanted to work long hours for less pay.
For the seventh straight year family physicians topped the list of the 20 most sought-after specialties for recruiters Merritt Hawkins.
This should not surprise. It has been evident for the last several years that as healthcare reform eventually mandates a shift away from fee-for-service and rewards prevention, quality outcomes, and population health, primary care physicians will lead the way.
Another driver for the high demand is the growing numbers of service sites. Medical groups searching for primary care physicians increasingly find themselves competing against other medical groups, hospitals, community health centers, urgent care centers, retail clinics, academic centers, and government facilities.
It was fashionable in the 1990s and the Health Maintenance Organization era to refer to primary care physicians as "gatekeepers" who would map out and coordinate care strategies to reduce costs and waste. While the gatekeeper label might have gone out of fashion (or conjures up unpleasant thoughts of rationed care) the role clearly has come storming back.
Return of the Gatekeeper
"Everybody wants to be in primary care. The whole mantra with healthcare reform is wherever your patients are let's be there," says Kurt Mosley, vice president of strategic alliances at Irving, TX-based Merritt Hawkins.