Will Obamacare affect wait times at primary care physicians?

Will Obamacare affect wait times at primary care physicians? (Image 1)

Patients may end up waiting longer for an appointment with their primary care physician next year, according to experts in the health care field.

As hundreds of thousands more Tennesseans, previously uninsured, are able to obtain policies through the new Obamacare marketplace, there is expected to be a flood of new patients in need of family and primary care doctors.

The need is expected to be especially acute in rural areas where there is already a shortage.

CEO of St. Thomas Health Mike Shatzlein says the hospital has been “adding residencies in family medicine and I think tripling the size of our internal medicine residency in our program as a new core campus for UT health services center. So we are recognizing more need to be trained.”

According to the Annals of Family Medicine, the U.S. will need 52,000 more primary care physicians by 2025. But demand isn't enough to encourage more medical students to go into family practice.

The cost of medical school is often cited as a reason why doctors pursue a specialty. The American Medical Association reports only one in five residents plan to go into primary care.

Filling the void are nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, also known as mid-level providers.

Nurse practitioners often staff the neighborhood clinics you may have visited inside your local drug store or grocery store.

“I do believe, and this is a touchy subject, but I do believe there is an increasing role for what we call mid-level providers an that would be nurse practitioners, predominately physicians assistants in some cases,” said Dr. Shatzlein.

To find out where the need for primary care physicians is greatest in Tennessee, visit HPSFind.gov or Health.State.TN.US.

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