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A study finds fewer doctors who want careers in primary care

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A recent study shows a dramatic decline in the number of prospective doctors choosing careers in primary care. The data cites that there are nearly half as many future primary care doctors as needed.

In August, JAMA Internal Medicine published that there might be about 48,000 fewer primary care physicians by 2032, which study authors say could have drastic implications for healthcare and its delivery across the United States. The study suggests that encouraging residents to pursue careers in general internal medicine is more important than ever.

Dr. Lauren Block, a study co-author with Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, said there are several reasons for this trend, including patient preferences toward “inter-visit care,” through email, text or phone.

For physicians, Block also said hospital medicine has become a more appealing career choice for internal medicine residents because of the desirable schedule, less documentation and higher salary.

“This has implications for the workforce,” she said. “And for all those who need a primary care doctor, for chronic disease management, when new things come up, and to discuss preventive care with.”

A study conducted a nationwide survey of internal medicine residents between 2019 and 2021. It found that more of them were interested in subspecialties of hospital medicine rather than general internal medicine.

This survey emphasized the categorical and primary care tracks for internal medicine residents interested in entering the primary care field.

Block said she hopes to increase out-patient setting training, allowing medical students and residents to observe and learn from important primary care practices. She also emphasized the need for national efforts to provide “pay parity” — paying people fairly and consistently for the same position — and more “pay equity” — paying people of different demographics the same for similar work — for all healthcare providers.

“We as a country have a lot to do in terms of making primary care the desirable career that it used to be to meet people’s needs for healthcare across the lifespan,” Block said.

Clare Gehlich is a former news intern at WSHU.