Information regarding the percentage of private practice PCPs that have closed due to the pandemic and the number of PCP doctors currently in the United States has been provided in this brief. In addition, trends surrounding PCPs leaving residency and entering the workforce have been provided below.
Percentage of Private Practice PCPs that Have Closed Due to the Pandemic
- As of 17 April 2020, approximately 5% of primary care practices (PCPs) temporarily closed.
- A survey conducted by the Primary Care Collaborative and The Larry A. Green Center in April 2020 revealed that 20% of PCPs would close in the next four weeks from the time the study was conducted. More than 2,600 primary care physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners were surveyed. According to the study, 3% of PCPs predicted closure as a result low staffing, 12% due to low patient volume, and 6% because of lack of cash on hand.
- In addition, modeling for end of June revealed the potential economic impact of primary care practice closures across the United States. It predicted the loss of approximately 60,000 primary care practice physicians.
- PCPs that predicted closure noted the main reasons were lack of cash on hand, low patient volume, and low staffing.
- Approximately 50% of PCPs in the US are small businesses that are going out of business primarily because of the payment model they use. “Each in-person visit with a patient generates a payment. Without in-person visits, there is little to no revenue.”
- Private PCPs will require assistance from a partner to continue being independent. Physicians that will not receive the support are going to either retire, seek to sell the practices to a health plan or hospital, or close their practice and look for employment with a bigger organization that is financially stable and can manage the shock.
- As of May, there was a 60% reduction in patient volumes due to the pandemic. Consequently, the revenue of physician practice was reduced by half. According to Primary Care Collaborative, 85% of PCPs have experienced a dramatic reduction in patient volume.
- Low patient volume is attributed to social distancing rules and the fear of catching COVID-19.
Number of PCP Doctors in the US
- As of 2017, there were over 223,125 direct patient care physicians in the US. Family physicians were 88,197, geriatrics were 4,170, general practitioners were 6,097, general internal medicine were 77,068, and general pediatrics were 47,593.
- In 2018, “the average number of primary care physicians per 100,000 people in the US was 156.7.” Rhode Island had the highest number at 264.5 per 100,000 people while Idaho had the lowest at 95.7 per 100,000 people.
Trends of PCPs Leaving Residency and Entering the Workforce
1. Family Physicians
- Many physicians that complete their residency in family medicine continue to pursue their career in the workforce as family physicians. As it stands, family physicians make up the biggest segment out of the total number of primary care physicians. In the US, the percentage of family physicians is 39.5%.
- The increasing number of family physicians is attributed to the large number of medical students and graduates that enroll for residency programs. For instance, in 2018, the American Academy of Family Physicians noted that “a total of 3,535 matched to family medicine programs, which was an increase of 298 from the previous year.”
2. Preference for Employment
- There is an increase toward physician employment considering that the number of independent practices is declining.
- According to the American Medical Association, “the percentage of patient care physicians with an ownership stake in a medical practice decline from 53.2% in 2012 to 47.1 percent in 2016.” On the other hand, the percentage of physicians who wanted to be employed increased from “41.8 percent in 2012 to 47.1 percent in 2016.”
- In addition, the American College of Physicians noted that the percentage of physician-owned practices decreased from “47 percent in 2007 to 19 percent in 2017.”
- One of the key drivers for this trend is the growing complexity in the practice of medicine. There are higher expectations for infrastructure such as electronic health records.
- In addition, there are generational differences. For instance, An AMA study revealed that millennials are mainly concerned about finding a good work-life balance, which can be easily achieved when one is employed.