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Why is it so hard to find a primary care doctor near me?
The value of primary care and the biggest challenge it faces.
What is primary care?
Primary care is the entry point of our healthcare system — it is the place for prevention, management of chronic illness, and support for acute conditions. For many people their primary care doctor used to be the doctor that knew them best — they knew your whole family, they would take your calls when you were sick, advocate for your health, and direct you in the right direction when more support was needed — truly the home-base for all your health needs.
Beyond regular checkups, preventive care, and chronic disease management, your primary care doctor could help you unravel and evaluate new symptoms or concerns. The list of possibilities is almost endless: acne, rashes, trouble sleeping, cold/flu symptoms, fatigue, contraception, mental health, stomach pain, etc. — all with your personal history already in mind.
For decades, research has shown that people who have access to primary care have greater patient satisfaction, better equity in health outcomes, and less instances of hospitalization. Unfortunately, it is becoming harder and harder to find a primary care doctor or to access the one that is assigned to your care: in 2015 only 75% of Americans had an identified source of primary care, leaving over 82 million Americans without this vital resource.
A supply and demand problem
Some estimates suggest that in the next decade the United States will have a shortage of primary care physicians of 17,800-48,000. This shortage will make it more likely that people without primary care will either forgo care altogether or get care in more expensive settings (emergency visits, hospitalizations, specialists, etc.). Without guidance from a primary care doctor, many people can miss important screenings and arrive to care when a problem has already developed.
This shortage of physicians is already being experienced by patients as long wait times to appointments or no primary care availability when switching to a new health plan. As the population ages and requires more health support, the supply of physicians is simultaneously decreasing for a variety of reasons — all leading to a crisis of care access and likely worse health outcomes for the US population.
Primary Care 3.0
Empirical Health is building the future of primary care by addressing all sides of the equation.
We support our patients with technology-enabled care — using the data they capture in their day-to-day lives, we can monitor their health to be proactive, rather than reactive.
We provide patients with easy access to primary care. Patients can engage in chat conversations with our doctors or schedule video appointments without a wait.
New technologies help our doctors expand their ability to care for patients without exacerbating the physician shortage. Doctors can return to the essence of what primary care is supposed to be.
If you are having a hard time finding a primary care doctor, give Empirical Health a try!
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