Many primary care physicians in the traditional fee-for-service insurance-based model are not accepting new patients. There has been a wave of retirements including early retirements for family physicians since the COVID-19 pandemic due to excessive burnout. Primary care physicians in the traditional healthcare system often have patient panels of up to 2,400 patients and according to a recent research study, in order for PCPs to adequately provide care to their patients, they would need 26.7 hours each day. Additionally, most doctors spend half of their time doing administrative work instead of actively caring for patients. This means that family physicians have to cut corners in the care they provide and take work home.
The never-ending workload coupled with the fact that family physicians are one of the lowest paid medical specialties makes this profession in medicine not very desirable for young doctors to pursue. “The Association of American Medical Colleges projects a primary care physician shortage of up to 55,000 doctors within the next decade in the U.S.” Dr. Russ Phillips, director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care declares “We have a crisis in primary care. There’s no question.”
The root cause of the crisis in primary care is its foundation in the traditional health care system, which rewards volume instead of outcome. There is only so much time in the day and the amount of stress that primary doctors are under because of this volume undoubtedly affects their performance. However, in direct primary care, doctors are not burdened with volume and enjoy much smaller patient panels, usually 500-700 and because these physicians are not relying on reimbursements from insurance for procedures and office visits, they have a fraction of the administrative duties. Hint is a tech platform built specifically to manage membership, billing and invoicing for direct primary care practices, so there’s virtually no administrative burden.
Critics of direct primary care cite that the reduced patient panels increase the problem of the primary care physician shortage, but it doesn’t take into account the increased appeal of becoming a family physician due to the improved quality of life since DPC doctors can provide better care to their patients and establish strong relationships with patients resulting in more preventative care and continuity of care as well as more effective management of chronic conditions. Adam Wheeler, MD gave compelling insights on how mid-levels can help alleviate the PCP shortage at Hint Summit 2022.
Direct primary care (DPC) is a win-win for all stakeholders - patients, clinicians, employers, TPAs, benefits advisers, innovative health plans and vendors. We strongly believe that DPC can address the PCP shortage and make becoming a family physician attractive to medical students. Primary care is the heart of care and with DPC at the center, costs go down, quality of care goes up and satisfaction is stellar amongst doctors and patients alike.