By: Dr. Ken Teufel
Some would argue that there are enough practicing physicians in the United States --- 767,000 at last count. They say the problem is twofold: (1) There aren't enough doctors in the right places, and (2) There aren't enough primary care physicians, especially family doctors.
More than 50,000 additional family practitioners will be needed by 2025, according to a study by the Robert Graham Center, a family medicine research organization. Population growth alone will require 33,000 additional family physicians, the aging population will require 10,000 more, and the Affordable Care Act is projected to increase the number of family doctors needed by more than 8,000.
A greater emphasis on primary care in U.S. medical schools and residencies is part of the solution. Another is Physician Retraining and Re-entry, a new program headquartered at U.C. San Diego's School of Medicine. According to its co-founder Dr. Leonard Glass, "PRR provides physicians of all backgrounds, retired and otherwise, the tools needed to offer adult outpatient primary care in their current practices or at understaffed clinics across the country" (The Washington Post, March 5, 2015). The online educational program was launched about a year ago and, says Dr. Glass, "has generated more than 1,000 inquiries from physicians of all backgrounds in nearly every state." He says there are more than 70 students currently enrolled in PRR, seven nearing completion and 13 who have graduated. The cost of the program is $8,500 and participants receive a total of 180 hours of continuing medical education credits from the U.C. San Diego School of Medicine.
PRR's targeted audience includes retired physicians wanting to re-enter the workforce and practicing specialists interested in offering primary care. "Although our program is not a complete solution to the physicians shortage," says Dr. Glass, "we hope that by delivering training online it will eventually be able to contribute upwards of 2,000 primary care physicians to the health care system every year."
About the author: Dr. Ken Teufel is the medical director at Interim Physicians, a pioneer locum tenens physician staffing firm based in St. Louis, MO that has provided quality physician coverage to hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities since 1979.