During the past several years, the demand for primary care physicians has continued to grow at alarming rates. As announced by the Association of American Medical College a few weeks back, the United States faces a shortage of 90,000 physicians by the year 2025. Almost a third of the shortage will be primary care physicians
Every day about 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, becoming Medicare eligible, while millions of Americans also gain healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. With more and more people entering the healthcare system every day, the physician shortage poses a huge risk for those who require timely and reliable care.
Possible solutions to the shortage
There is no quick-fix to the doctor shortage, which is why we must implement different approaches to help address it. Training registered nurses have been one proposed solution, though nurses have approximately 10,000 less hours of training than those who have completed a medical degree and residency. Sending residents to rural hospitals is another option, since rural hospitals are among the hardest hit. Lifting the cap on federally funded residency positions will be a pivotal advancement, as well. But even with all these changes, the U.S. will still struggle to address the growing shortage of PCPs.
The rural problem
Struggling the most with the shortage of physicians is rural America. These regions often cannot afford to have more than one or two medical residents in their hospitals, and even worse, more and more rural hospitals are closing due to the lack of funding. Nearly one in five Americans live in rural areas, but only a tenth of physicians practice in these areas. Research shows that there are about 68 primary care doctors for every 100,00 people in a rural area, compared to the 84 doctors in urban cities.
The Physician Retraining and Reentry program
There are programs designed to help address the shortage, however. One such program, a for-profit organization called Physicians Retraining & Reentry (PRR), which I helped create in collaboration with University of California San Diego School of Medicine faculty, empowers experienced, medically licensed physicians of all backgrounds with the tools to practice primary care. It not only gives hope to slightly disabled surgeons who are far from voluntary retirement, but who are also fully capable of diagnosing and treating patients in a primary care setting.
For an all-inclusive fee of $8,500, PRR provides the following benefits
- A curriculum composed of 15 courses covering everything from cardiology to medical records.
- An online UC San Diego faculty authored study guide that lists the subjects participants must master before completing the program. The PRR study guide includes links to the educational material found in the program’s textbook and UpToDate, the premier online evidence-based clinical decision support reference resource.
- Kumar and Clark’s “Essentials of Medicine” textbook—fifth edition.
- A one-year paid subscription to UpToDate.
- Email access to UC San Diego School of Medicine faculty for Q & A.
- Online exams for each of the 15 courses plus a final online exam.
- 180 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits ™ certificate issued by UC San Diego School of Medicine.
- Job placement assistance available.
- A course-completion certificate issued by Physician Retraining & Reentry.
- Discounts for future webinars and on-campus courses to help participants keep current in the years ahead.
Each course includes a test that must be passed before a participant proceeds to the next section. The UC San Diego faculty has created test questions for each of the 15 courses within the curriculum. After completing all 15 courses, a final exam is given online, which must also be passed.
It is our hope that by delivering training online we will eventually be able to contribute upwards of 2,000 primary care physicians to the healthcare system every year. While this isn’t a complete solution to critical healthcare problem, it’s one piece of the puzzle that we think will make a lasting positive impact.