03.16.2020

The Problem with U.S. Health Care Isn’t a Shortage of Doctors

The coronavirus epidemic is increasing demands on health care’s frontline, primary care physicians. Even before the outbreak emerged, conventional wisdom held that we’re facing a PCP shortage. Quartz this July warned of a “devastating” doctor shortage poised to strike America. Later that month, the Washington Post chimed in with “America to face a shortage of primary care physicians within a decade or so.” Indeed, estimates from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) indicate that the U.S. could face a shortfall of between 21,000 and 55,000 primary care doctors by 2023. Add to this the spikes in demand from Covid-19 and any future epidemics, and the challenge might seem insurmountable

We’re not here to second-guess the AAMC’s estimates. Based on typical primary care clinical practice, that assessment makes sense. But what if there were a way to provide enough primary care to serve the needs of the U.S. population across the next decade — even with abrupt changes in demand — without having to add tens of thousands of physicians beyond current expected supply?

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