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Wednesday Oct 16, 2013

Residents Can Attest to Demand for FPs

I recently served as a panelist during National Primary Care Week activities at my alma mater, Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. During our session, one of the medical school students asked me how family medicine might change in light of more mid-levels providing primary care. Specifically, the student wanted to know if demand for family physicians might fizzle.

My response?

Absolutely not.

Family physicians are in demand more than any other specialty and have been for seven years running, according to Merritt Hawkins. The health care search and consulting firm said in a report last month that the growing demand for family physicians stems from the need for employed FPs in hospitals and health care systems.

The number of medical students choosing family medicine increased for the fourth straight year in the 2013 National Resident Matching Programand more U.S. seniors matched to family medicine than in any year since 2002.

Despite those positive signs, the supply of family physicians is nowhere near balanced with the demand. Researchers estimate that the country needs 52,000 more primary care physicians by 2025.

The fact that family physicians are in demand should come as no surprise to family medicine residents. I receive solicitations daily from recruiters, despite the fact that I'm not looking for a job. I signed a contract more than a year ago for a position that will start in August 2014. Most residents don't sign that early, but I found exactly the kind of practice I wanted to join. The federally qualified health center is a patient-centered medical home with a physician friendly electronic health record. Its reimbursement model includes per-member, per-month fees.

The practice is continually pursuing, and receiving, innovation grants and trying new things, so I'm happy with my choice. I'm not circulating my resume. I don't even have a LinkedIn account. And yet, the calls, e-mails and snail mail keep coming at home and at work every day.

One of my fellow third-year residents -- who is looking for a family medicine job -- said she receives more than a dozen e-mails a day from recruiters.

So what did I tell that student during our panel discussion?

I said that nurse practitioners often specialize, so they can't necessarily improve access to primary care in areas of need.

I said family physicians should work to appropriately incorporate mid-levels into our practices because they can play a vital role on our health care teams.

And, I pointed out that many patients prefer to see a physician, and some will switch practices if they don't think they have proper access to their doctor.

We are in demand by patients and employers, and that isn't likely to change.

Kimberly Becher, M.D., is the resident member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

Posted at 02:01PM Oct 16, 2013 by Kimberly Becher, M.D.

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