Village Soup, our local online and print newspaper, has discovered that there is a local shortage of primary care physicians and contacted a hospital administrator and two state legislators in researching an article and editorial published this week.
Lest those of you that don't have a subscription to Village Soup miss out on my opinion, this is the text of my online comment about their editorial:
It's disappointing to see Village Soup investigating a local primary care physician shortage and publishing an article and an editorial without apparently contacting any physicians.
As a local family physician for over 13 years who has recruited several other physicians to the area, I have more recently both contributed to the local physician shortage and offer a likely solution with my recent change in practice.
The problems that have led to the primary care physician shortage have been affecting us local physicians for years. Commercial and government third party payers talk about the importance of primary care while steadily increasing their demands and shifting payments towards procedures. As a result, many primary care physicians have retired early, others have given up their practices and retreated to the apparent shelter of large hospital systems that can charge facility fees or shift money from profitable tests and procedures to primary care clinics. The rest of us worked smarter, harder and longer to sustain our practices with varying success. Medical students and resident (trainee) physicians are well aware of all this and most avoid primary care.
However, primary care is undergoing a growing renaissance in many parts of the country. Direct Primary Care is an affordable version of the high priced concierge practices enjoyed by the wealthy. Direct Primary Care cuts out the middlemen and greatly simplifies the business of primary care for physicians, allowing them to lower prices back to levels affordable by almost all patients while giving those patients great access to their own physician. Most importantly for this discussion, Direct Primary Care sustains successful practices that are drawing young physicians back to primary care. While Maine lags behind other areas of the country in this, Maine will soon have its seventh independent, direct primary care practice this winter.
The prescription to solve the primary care shortage does not require new government programs or further expansion of large hospital networks but simply the two groups that have lost the most in the current primary care mess, Maine physicians and patients.
Brian Pierce MD
Megunticook Family Medicine