Going to the doctor is a regular occurrence for most everybody and, according to the CDC, there are a billion trips to the doctor every year and almost 83% of all Americans have made an appointment in the last year. Traditionally, visiting a primary care physician or family doctors was the best way for individuals to get any diagnoses or treatment they needed, even if the problems were simple. However, the healthcare landscape is not the same as it was decades ago and, at least one doctor, wonders if primary care physicians still have a role.
“There are still physicians that go into general internal medicine and choose primary care though. I am one of them. But there are days where I wonder if I would make that choice again,” says Doug Olson, MD. “Here’s a big reason why that has not received much attention: I don’t really know if I am needed.”
Olson attributes that to a couple of factors. For one, he says that between 80% and 85% of the patients he sees can be handled by a nurse practitioner, which raises questions about why he spent the extra three or four years in school. On top of that, he mentions that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it has been dubbed, has drastically changed healthcare. While that means better care for patients, it might also mean a decline in the need for traditional primary care physicians.
The rise of urgent care facilities also plays a role, since they offer 24-hour care without the hassle of having to both make an appointment and wait to actually see the doctor. Unfortunately, acute injuries don’t only occur during business hours or when doctors are actually available, and walk in clinics that offer care at every hour are often the better choice. While they might not feature physical therapists or other specialists, they often provide the same quality medical care that any family doctor will, but in a more convenient environment.
It would be a major stretch to say that primary care physicians are no longer needed and will eventually be phased out. While Olson thinks that reform is needed to better take advantage of their skills, the fact remains that patients can often get the same level of care from others. As Obamacare becomes more widely instituted and more a part of the American healthcare system, it will be interesting to see if patients change their habits and Olson is right in thinking that his extra years in college were actually a waste. Learn more at this link.