For most of us, our trips to our primary care physician hold a ton of value but a study of 62,000 medical residents revealed in the next decade, there will be fewer primary care physicians to visit.
"We found that where about 10 years ago where 20% of residents were planning to go into primary care or general internal medicine. Now only 10% of residents are planning to go into general internal medicine, so the number dropped by half in only 10 years," Dr. Lauren Block, researcher and PCP with Northwell Health told FOX 5.
Primary care doctors provide constant care for patients and are usually the first point of contact when a patient has medical concerns especially serving those with chronic diseases like asthma, and high blood pressure.
"As primary care doctors we provide continuity for our patients," Block said.
Healthcare systems and patients alike see that value and offer incentives like debt relief programs and federally funded primary care residency programs yet that downward trend continues.
"We found in our study less than a third of the graduates of even those primary care programs are going into general internal medicine," Block explained.
Dr. Block noticed more doctors upon completing their residency have been choosing subfields like hospital medicine and specialty medicine for higher pay and potentially better hours.
When questioning what changed within the last decade, researchers found contributing factors like rise in telehealth, patient portals and electronic medical records, all adding to the administrative burden of Primary care physicians while diminishing overall interest among students.
That shortage, though, has consequences, namely for those in underserved communities.
"I think that includes people with limited English proficiency, I think it includes the uninsured, poor individuals, individuals of color," Block explained.
For context, the average primary care physician’s patient roster is about 1,500. Multiply that by the projected 48,000-doctor shortage in 2032, you’ve got 72 million patients without primary care physicians if that trend continues.