|AMA Works To Reverse Primary Care Physician Shortage
The nation is experiencing the beginning of a physician
shortage – with primary care being especially hard hit –
according to the American Medical Association (AMA) and as the U.S.
population grows and millions of baby boomers age, this shortage
promises to get worse with major repercussions for the health of the
The AMA said it is working to address this issue with a
new policy aimed at increasing the ranks of primary care physicians,
which passed at the AMA’s semi-annual policy-making meeting.
"The decrease in practicing primary care physicians and
the alarming dearth of medical students planning to pursue primary care
is a problem that cannot be ignored," said AMA Board Member Dr. William
Hazel. "The AMA is working to reverse this trend and to ensure adequate
access to care for patients."
The AMA said it’s new policy includes a
multi-pronged action plan that gets to the heart of the decline in the
number of primary care physicians by addressing medical student debt,
recruitment and training, and increased payments by insurers for
primary care services.
One challenge facing medical students considering
primary care is their substantial medical school debt. On average, a
medical student graduates owing $140,000, which can lead students to
consider pursuing a career in higher-paying specialties, according to
The AMA will support programs to decrease the debt load
of physicians who choose to practice primary care, including
scholarships and loan repayment plans.
The AMA said it will also conduct studies on new models
of care, such as the medical home, that may improve the quality of
patient care and make the practice of primary care more rewarding for
The studies will evaluate the growth of these new models
and the availability of expanded private or public funding for
To spur broader interest in practicing primary care, the
AMA said it will work with other organizations, such as medical
schools, to develop new and innovative ways of recruiting and training
primary care physicians. This may include offering students more
educational experiences in community-based settings, like smaller
hospitals or rural health clinics.
"There is a predicted shortage of 35,000 to 40,000
primary care physicians by 2025," said Dr. Hazel. "With the large aging
population and the increased incidence of chronic disease, this is a
major problem. Physicians, medical schools, lawmakers and others must
work now to address the problem in order to ensure that we have enough
physicians to care for patients in the years to come."
Address: American Medical Association, 515 N State St., Chicago, IL 60610; (800) 621-8335, www.ama-assn.org.