The Next Health Care Crisis

Monday, April 27, 2020
By By Spencer Chang
Healthcare worker holding patient's hands

While the COVID-19 pandemic has much of the world focused on emergency and ICU medicine — rightly so, there is another crisis that will impact our health care system that we can’t take our eye off of — a shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs). As fewer medical students choose primary care, Americans will be left with even fewer PCPs to look after them, and a surplus of subspecialists in the health care system. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has much of the world focused on emergency and ICU medicine — rightly so, there is another crisis that will impact our health care system that we can’t take our eye off of — a shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs). As fewer medical students choose primary care, Americans will be left with even fewer PCPs to look after them, and a surplus of subspecialists in the health care system. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of up to 55,000 primary care physicians by 2032, even as a growing number of baby boomers and increasing obesity rates prompt an expanding need for them. It is known that states with a higher ratio of primary care physicians have better health and lower rates of mortality. Patients who regularly see a primary care physician also have lower health costs than those without one. So why aren’t more medical students going into primary care?

Read entire Op Ed by Spencer Chang, Duke Medical Student