By Sumi Dey, MD and Harland Holman, MD
It’s time to serve as a primary care physician.
This is what we tell our students. Why? Because the US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that by 2025 the United States will be short 35,000 to 44,000 adult care primary care physicians. We believe this is a crucial time for medical students to become interested in serving as primary care physicians. If future students will not prepare to care for our nation’s needs, who will?
If a student asks why they should be primary care physicians, this is our answer.
Americans who regularly visit their primary care physician have a 33% lower health care cost and 19% lower odds of dying than patients who visit only specialists. According to the Report on Financing the New Model of Family Medicine, if every American had an established relationship with their primary care physician, it would reduce national health care costs by $67 billion per year.
Primary care access is correlated with more equitable distribution of health within a population and can mitigate the adverse effects of income inequality. This is especially important in the United States, where minorities and economically challenged people are struggling to access regular primary care.
Countries where patients have established relationships with primary care physicians have lower depression and suicide rates. Mental health problems including depression and anxiety are part of patients’ everyday life experience, and often primary care physicians address mental health at almost every visit. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 70% of visits to primary care physicians are associated with psychological issues.
Establishing a long-term, strong relationship with a primary care physician plays a crucial role in early disease diagnosis and prevention. The Centers for Disease Control show that disease prevention is important in creating healthier communities and productive lives, and in reducing overall health care costs.
Primary care physicians provide continuity and preventive care for a wide range of medical conditions and undiagnosed health concerns. They also serve as the framework for building a strong health care system that ensures positive, cost-effective health outcomes and health equity for the nation, especially in underserved populations.
Students, it’s time to serve as a primary care physician.