The healthcare industry is facing a significant primary care physician (PCP) shortage that's impacting treatment access, quality, and consistency across the U.S. According to a recent Washington Post article, the number of primary care positions offered to medical students by the National Resident Matching Program soared to record heights in 2019. Unfortunately, the overall percentage of primary care positions filled by fourth-year medical students dipped to the lowest number on record.
Additionally, current statistics show that approximately 13 percent of all U.S. patients live in a district where there's a primary care shortage, or fewer than one PCP per 2,000 patients. The growing gap between qualified clinicians can occur in both rural and urban areas. However, the PCP shortage is five times more likely to impact patients in rural regions of the country.
Several Factors Contributing to Primary Care Physician Shortage
The current PCP shortage is being exacerbated by several factors, starting in medical school. In 2017, only one-sixth of all graduates (5,000 out of 30,000) opted into a primary care residency program. Also, our growing aging population comes into play, not only increasing patients' need for qualified primary care, but also influencing the average age of licensed doctors. Research shows that more than a third of all practicing physicians will be 65 or older by 2030, which, not coincidentally, is also the year the U.S. is predicted to have just over 300,000 primary care doctors in the nation.
Practices and Providers Are Getting Creative to Close Growing PCP Gap
As the available PCP workforce continues to shrink at a rate faster than it can be replenished, healthcare facilities are turning to Locum Tenens staffing firms to help bridge the practitioner gap. Working with a qualified Locum Tenens firm to augment a primary care facility or practice delivers several invaluable benefits. First, many internal provider recruiters struggle to find the right candidates for their PCP positions because they are competing with other practices for the same pool of local talent. A Locum Tenens agency can go beyond available doctors that are currently in your area. An experienced firm will have a well-vetted network of licensed, qualified physicians from all across the country who are willing to travel, instantly increasing the chances of finding the right fit for your position.
Also, hiring a full-time primary care physician can waste precious hours, both throughout the search process as well as when training the new employee. Locum Tenens physicians typically have extensive experience working this type of job model. As a result, many practices not only have a shorter turnaround time to fill the position, but they also enjoy a minimized training period before their licensed and certified doctor is able to start seeing patients.
Finally, using Locum Tenens physicians to fill the gap in available primary care physician positions at a practice helps maintain the provider's overall quality of care. Patients will have increased access to clinicians, ensuring they receive the testing, treatment, and therapies they need to sustain overall health levels. Additionally, a Locum Tenens hiring model can also prove beneficial to existing medical staff. Leveraging Locum Tenens physicians can eliminate stress on already overworked internal employees, helping them potentially perform better and even possibly deliver better patient outcomes.
Are you struggling with the PCP shortage? LT Partners can help. Contact our team to learn more about using licensed Locum Tenens doctors to augment your practice's current staff.