How bad is the primary care physician shortage in New York State?

New York State's primary care provider shortage continues to exist and is likely to increase, threatening the advances of healthcare reform, according to a new report by the Healthcare Association of New York State.

The report, "Where Are the Doctors?", reflects the results from HANYS' 2015 Physician Advocacy Survey including responses from 103 member hospitals and health systems across the state.

The survey found:

  • Seventy-one percent said their current primary care capacity is insufficient to meet current patient needs, with 77 percent reporting a deficit to meet future needs.
  • Eighty-one percent of respondents indicated that primary care physicians are very difficult to recruit, while 84 percent indicated that recruitment of primary care physicians is one of their critical strategies for improving access to care.
  • Seventy-two percent of respondents indicated that their ability to recruit primary care physicians remained the same or worsened. Only 14 percent indicated that it had improved.
  • Primary care physicians represent the largest percentage (25 percent) of all physician specialties currently being recruited, among those responding.
  • Fifty-seven percent of all respondents indicated there are times when they have to transfer patients from the emergency department because the specialist they need is not available. Upstate, this number rises to 86 percent of respondents.

HANYS said these findings confirm the need for a significant increase in primary care physicians statewide.

"As New York fundamentally changes how and where patients receive healthcare by focusing on care coordination and population health, there is a growing need for primary care providers in communities across the state," HANYS President Dennis Whalen said in a prepared statement. "In order for healthcare transformation to succeed, we must address this critical demand for primary care."

According to the report, the primary care physician shortage has been caused by an aging workforce, medical school debt, lower salaries for primary care physicians compared to specialties, and lack of interest in practicing in under-served areas of the state. 

To address this shortfall, HANYS recommends expanding the pipeline of primary care physicians likely to work in under-served areas, increased funding for the Doctors Across New York and Primary Care Service Corps programs, using telehealth options to expand outreach of current primary care services, collaboration with the New York State Area Health Education Centers to recruit and retain culturally diverse healthcare providers, and lifting the cap on Medicare support for graduate medical education.


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