AAFP Statement: Recruitment Report Reconfirms Worsening Shortage of Primary Care Physicians

Solution lies in improved support for primary care training

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Statement attributable to:
Ted Epperly, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“The release of the 2009 Merritt Hawkins Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives provides continued evidence that America is in serious need of primary care physicians — particularly family physicians. This annual report shows that demand for family physicians skyrocketed 132 percent since their 2005-2006 report and continues to exceed that for all other medical specialties.

“Family physicians and their primary care peers are the front door to our health care system. They are the first contact patients have and they are the physicians to whom patients turn for help navigating our extremely complex health care system. Without primary care physicians to meet this demand, simply providing an insurance card to all will do little to improve patients’ access to high-quality health care or to provide better efficiency.

“Since 2006, the American Academy of Family Physicians has called for physician workforce policies that can reverse this alarming trend. Only by increasing support for primary care physician education can we increase the number of family physicians. Only by increasing support for programs that help medical students pay back or defray the burden of their medical school debt will we make the option of a primary care medical career truly available. Only by improving primary care physician payment can we encourage these students to consider family medicine and primary care for their careers.

“The AAFP commends Congress — particularly the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor committees — for their commitment to addressing these issues in health reform proposals. We look to Congress to ensure that, once Americans have health coverage, they also have access to the primary care physicians who have the medical expertise to treat 80 percent of the health care problems that people have.

“Congress can do so by passing legislation that invests in training more primary care physicians, implements payment models that support patient-centered primary care and reforms Medicare payment to recruit more physicians into primary care and to support those already in practice.”

Editor’s note: To arrange an interview with Ted Epperly, MD, contact Leslie Champlin, at 800-274-2237, Ext. 5224, or lchampli@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.  To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org(familydoctor.org).