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 American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

To learn more about the AAFP and family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. Follow us on Twitter,(twitter.com) and like us on Facebook. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org(familydoctor.org).