Blog Post

Does your market have enough primary care providers? Here's how to tell.

October 30, 2018

    With organizations like the Association of American Medical Colleges estimating a shortage of 14,800 primary care physicians nationally, you may assume your market has a supply shortage. However, estimates like this one do not take into account key factors such as advanced practitioners and alternative sites of care, which may tell a different story. Before launching into new primary care investments, use our Primary Care Provider Demand Calculator, which accounts for the impact of the following factors on supply to determine if your market is actually understaffed.

    Download ready-to-use slides on primary care transformation

    Think beyond physicians

    To accurately account for primary care supply in your market, add advanced practitioners to the market's provider count. Nationally, there are 2.9 million nurses, of whom 141,100 are advanced-practice registered nurses (APRNs) providing primary care. Planners must scan the market and estimate the number of APs and NPs who serve primary care patients.

    Account for a part-time and retiring workforce

    Then, planners must also gauge what percentage of the workforce is full-time vs. part-time, as well as the retirement risk of current providers. For example, a recent study found the median retirement age for primary care physicians is 64.9 years, and that almost 78,000 primary care physicians are between the ages of 55 and 80.  These variables could significantly affect your supply analysis today as well in the next five to 10 years.

    Adjust for alternative sites of care

    Aside from including other primary care providers and considering their employment contracts, planners must also account for significant variations in alternative sites of care. Urgent care centers, retail clinics, and even telehealth services are not growing substantially in number, but they are becoming many patients' go-to location for primary-care needs. Therefore, planners must attribute some primary-care volumes to these alternative sites, alleviating some of the primary-care demand burden in their market.  

    Identify the actual need for primary care in your market

    After accounting for these adjustments, planners may find that a supposed shortage of primary care physicians in their market may not actually indicate a shortage of primary care providers and services. Thus, it's critical that planners evaluate the entirety of their market's demand and supply of primary care before making an investment decision. Capturing all of this nuance is challenging. Our Primary Care Provider Demand Calculator can help planners determine their market's need for additional primary care providers, adjusting for factors such as AP supply, the workforce's part-time status and retirement risk, alternative sites of care, and more.

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