Let’s slow down a little on this idea of a physician shortage. Several recent analyses proclaim the US health care system will see a massive physician shortage in future. The basis of this hypothesis is demand for care will far outpace physician supply as the population continues to grow and age but the rate of physicians entering the workforce stays roughly the same. This shortage will worsen access to care and burden practicing physicians for years to come. And it seems inevitable. But is it?
We disagree. We respect other organizations’ models and analyses. But there is ample evidence the current physician workforce doesn’t practice anywhere close to its full clinical capacity because of immense administrative burden and inefficiencies in our systems. Especially in primary care, which is where we focused our analysis. What if PCPs could spend more time clinically and less administratively? Our hypothesis: there will be NO PCP shortage if leaders in the industry fix—or at least improve—the way physicians practice. We identified primary care workflow interventions with vetted data that increase physician capacity and allow them to spend more time clinically and less time administratively. Then we tested what impact those improvements could have on PCP supply.
The main takeaway:
Health care leaders CAN prevent a PCP shortage. We evaluated how interventions in four categories affect primary care visit supply (workflow optimization, care team redesign, telemedicine, and enabling technology). Even in our most conservative estimates, these interventions increased physician capacity to the point where there was not just no physician shortage but a visit surplus. Getting as tactical as possible, we found implementing just one intervention from each of the four types increased physician capacity enough to eliminate a PCP shortage.