As a generally accepted rule, shortage of primary care providers is met by training more of them. However, looking at the problem in a different way – as a mismatch between the demand for primary care services and the system’s capacity to meet that demand – may result in faster and more cost-efficient results.
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Experts argue that the supply-demand gap for primary care services can be reduced by making better use of existing resources like primary care physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, medical assistants and health coaches.
Reassigning these resources can significantly improve primary care practices’ ability to meet patient needs in preventive, chronic and acute care. As per research, 17% of an average family practitioner’s time is spent on preventive care such as cancer screenings, immunizations and counseling.
Medical science has come a long way. It is allowing patients to perform many services themselves which earlier required a clinician such as home pregnancy tests, HIV tests, blood sugar checks, glucose monitoring, etc.
As technology continues to open new avenues of delivering healthcare in the industry, the future looks very promising. Soon enough, computers could be programmed to provide primary care to the patients and even be able to process medication refills for patients with diabetes, hyperlipidemia or hypertension.
The US faces a shortage of 90,000 primary care physicians by 2020 and 130,000 by 2025, as per the Association of American Medical Colleges. This is primarily the reason why there is growing concern among the healthcare regulatory authorities and physicians alike about the shortfall. The need of the hour is to tap the nation’s unused primary care capacity in a way that it is able to address the expected shortage. Technology will play a huge part towards achieving that as it can make the impossible, possible.