Delaware is in the midst of a crisis and it might not be the one you are familiar with.
The Primary Care Physician 2018 Survey
The Primary Care Physician in Delaware Survey was administered for the eighth time at the end of 2018. The survey provides information on physicians actively providing patient care, how long they intend to practice, their practice characteristics, and demographics. These results help government officials, employers, and educational institutions make decisions on things like budgets, curricula, and workforce development. It’s extremely important that there is an adequate supply of health professionals available to Delawareans.
The Survey Results
The estimated number of full time primary care physicians is 662.
Kent and Sussex Counties are both considered primary care physician shortage areas.
Only 60% of Kent, 70% of New Castle, and 78% of Sussex County primary care physicians reported that they are likely to be practicing five years from now.
82% of physicians are accepting new patients, but only 72% are accepting new Medicare patients and only 78% are accepting new Medicaid patients.
62% of primary care physicians employ advanced practice non-physician nurses and physician assistants.
There are not enough new primary care physicians entering the field to replace those that plan on leaving in the next five years. This means the current primary care physician shortage is only going to worsen.
Some of the reasons for the exodus and avoidance of primary care include:
Administrative and care coordination burden.
Higher deductibles and copays increase patient incentive to receive as much care at one visit as possible, increasing provider stress.
Lower pay compared to specialists.
The appeal of practicing general medicine is less than specialty care.
The Primary Care Collaborative has been tasked with finding some solutions to this crisis. Some of the options include:
Increased payment to primary care for administrative tasks and care coordination
Decreased administrative burden
Loan repayments for primary care physicians who serve in a primary care health shortage area
Changing state law to recognize physician assistants as primary care providers
Enhanced utilization of non-physician providers
The Primary Care Collaborative continues to meet and seek further stakeholder input and data. It’s vital that the state come together to work on this issue.