Primary Care Physicians Face Tight Competition

Long hours and low pay make family practice an unappealing option for many aspiring physicians. According to a report from the Health Care Cost Institute, primary-care doctors are now facing competition from retail clinics and urgent-care centers – further hampering this already struggling profession.

Office visits to primary-care doctors declined 18 percent from 2012 to 2016, as consumers flocked to “minute clinics,” where they can be inexpensively tended to by nurse practicioners and physician assistants. These trends are prompting major corporations like CVS-Aetna to expand the number of one-stop medical clinics available in their stores, potentially eroding small primary-care practices.

Stressing the importance of continuity of care, some argue that patients treated by health-care professionals unfamiliar with their history may be given inferior treatment, including unnecessary prescriptions. But researchers argue this has not been proven in studies.

Ateev Mehrotra, MD, MPH, an associate professor of health-care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School, told The New York Times, “The quality of care that you see at a retail clinic is equal or superior to what we see in a doctor’s office or emergency department.” He also noted that antibiotics are prescribed at equal rates between clinics and doctor’s offices.

Source: The New York Times, April 7, 2018.