Doctors say fewer medical students are studying to become primary care physicians, which could impact your ability to see a doctor when you need one.
According to a recent study by George Washington University, less than 25% of new doctors chose primary care; of those, only 4.8% practice in rural areas.
“We really need to look at restructuring how we reimburse physicians, and how we look at health care in the United States,” Dr. Donald Brady, Associate Dean of Vanderbilt Graduate Medical Education said.
According to Dr. Brady, there are many factors as to why students are steering away from family practice, including tending to more patients and holding longer hours, as well as lower pay than specialists.
“Several things may factor into why they do not stay in primary care,” Brady said. “One is reimbursements, the ability to pay off the loans they have accumulated during medical school.”
Health officials added that a primary care physician, whether a general pediatrician or a general internist, will have a much broader area of medicine to learn.
Due to the decrease in those interested in family care, medical experts say it is creating a perfect storm because fewer medical students choosing the field now means fewer family doctors in the future, especially in rural areas.
Nashville's News 2 also spoke with Dr. Billy Sullivan, who is among Vanderbilt University's latest group of medical residents training in 80 different programs.
Sullivan said he plans to become a family doctor while more and more medical students are skipping family practice for specialties such as cardiology and oncology.
“Some are drawn to the idea that they have the most patient contact, probably the most influence on what actually happens to the patient,” Dr. Sullivan said.
Despite the pessimistic outlook for the future, Dr. Sullivan told Nashville's News 2 he is up for the challenge as he begins his residency.
The study also concluded the Affordable Health Care Act, often referred to as Obama Care, will increase the demand for family doctors, stretching the system even thinner.