Many ways exist to help sweeten the pot for primary-care residents, he said. For starters, medical students need to be enticed to choose primary-care careers. This may involve getting rid of some of the non-care-related demands of the job, such as paperwork and the routine time spent haggling with insurers about reimbursement, he added.
Dr. Cynthia Smith, senior medical associate for content development at the American College of Physicians, agreed that the career choice of primary care must be made more appealing.
"We haven't done enough yet to encourage more folks to go into primary care," Smith said. "The elephant in the room is reimbursement. Today's primary-care physicians spend 60 percent of their time doing activities that are not currently reimbursed." This includes following up with patients and other specialists and performing clerical duties.
As far as doctors' training goes, "we have to enhance their educational experience outside of the hospital to give them that type of experience," Smith said.
Study author West noted that some primary-care residents may choose specialty careers because they think they're more lucrative. Hot career choices are cardiology, gastroenterology and radiology.
Dr. Martha Grayson, senior associate dean of medical education and a professor of clinical medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said debt forgiveness may help boost interest in primary care as many medical students have significant debt.
Another issue is lifestyle. Many medical students are choosing careers with set boundaries on their time, such as the hospitalist track. These are doctors who care for you while you are hospitalized.
"We can think about reduction of expected work hours," Grayson said. "We need to send a clearer message on the value of primary care to medical students. In my day, almost everybody stayed in primary care after completing a pr
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