Hot Trends in Primary Care

Traditional primary care is changing.  Today, there are roughly 400,000 primary care doctors working in the United States . But this number is plummeting each year. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, by 2020, we’ll be 40,000 doctors shy of what the population needs.

And while there are far fewer docs there are far more customers.  With waiting to schedule and actually see the doctor taking more and more time, Americans are being forced to look for other options.

SRxA’s Word on Health is pleased to bring you a list of the top trending alternatives:

Drive-Thru Clinics
Retail clinics such as Wal-Mart, Target and CVS and walk-in urgent care chains including MD Now and Patient First. While some researchers purport that retail medical outlets only complement traditional primary care, other studies show that only 25% of those who patronize these locations have a primary care physician and an estimated 16 to 27% are uninsured.

Concierge Doctors
There are now more than 5,000 concierge physicians in the United States, charging on average $1,500 to $2,000 for an annual membership fee on top of insurance co-pays . You pay for access and time,  same-day appointments, email and cell phone privileges and longer visits.

Nurse Practitioners
Remember when the nurse was the warm-up act for your annual physical? Not any more.  Nurse practitioners are headlining the healthcare 2.0 revolution. Several states are already looking to increase the functions and procedures nurse practitioners may oversee.

Virtual Docs
It’s one thing to access your medical records with your mouse cursor and schedule a flu shot online, but it’s another to virtually visit one-on-one with your doc while he’s blowing off steam at the 19th hole. But imagine being able to get diagnosed in your robe and bunny slippers via webcam. The future of 24/7 WiFi house calls is now, and even the recently enacted healthcare legislation has promoted wider proliferation of the high tech, low-personal-touch approach.

Holistic Medicine
Such as acupuncture, herbalism and massage are being increasingly used as patients shy away from pharmaceuticals and invasive operations.

Jet-Set & Suture
Medical tourism is booming. It’s no secret that you can travel to Costa Rica, Brazil, Thailand or South Africa for much cheaper procedures than down the road at your local Regional Hospital. It’s also no secret that serious due diligence and research is important to ensure you don’t get ensnared in a “60 Minutes” black market surgery sting in some godforsaken banana republic. According to Deloitte Consulting, the number of Americans traveling for medical care is around 800,000 / year.

Emergency Room
When the line for the doctor is too long, where can people turn for honest medical care? The E.R.! Patients are showing up more frequently with routine ailments because they feel they have nowhere else to turn, especially in poor, urban areas. In a case study of Massachusetts, E.R. visits were up 10% between 2004 and 2008. Considering the current trending of primary care accessibility, expect even longer waits at your neighborhood E.R.

What do you think about these trends?  Are you aware of any others?  We look forward to hearing from you.