Have you ever tried to get a new patient appointment with a primary care doctor? This is an exceptionally hard task these days. According to Merritt Hawkins, the average wait time for a new patient appointment with a primary care doctor is 24 days, up from 18.5 days in 2014. In Rhode Island, the wait is much longer. We’ve heard of patients quoted a six month wait period before they can see a doctor as a new patient!
Why is this? And as an established patient, why does it take 2-3 weeks to be seen for an acute issue? Well at a traditional practice, most doctors have 2,000 - 3,000 patients in their panel and see 20-30 patients a day to keep the practice running. It’s impossible to cover all of their overhead without continually seeing patients every 10-15 minutes, every day. After all they have to cover the costs of their nurses, medical assistants, secretaries, coders/billers, etc while also paying all of those administrators who bring absolutely nothing to patient care! Because of
this, many primary care physicians are becoming “burned out” with the day to day grind of a typical primary care practice. Many docs are moving to academics, administrative roles, telemedicine, consulting, and any other avenue they can find to try to practice medicine in a different setting. It has also become harder to get medical students and residents to see primary care as a favorable specialty to pursue. This has led to a “shortage” of primary care doctors, both in Rhode Island and nationally.
Direct Primary Care is changing all of this. Physicians are able to practice autonomously and not feel rushed with every patient. They are able to use technology and a better doctor/patient relationship to become more efficient for both the patient and themselves. They don’t
have to cram patients in just to meet their overhead or demands of their “bosses.” We often see new patients within a few days and established patients same day as we can make our schedule flexible to handle this kind of demand. The hope is that as more physicians turn to
DPC as an avenue away from the typical practice, doctors will stay in clinical practice longer, devote more of their time to medicine (as opposed to administrative demands) and trainees will see the value and benefit of practicing full scope primary care in a rewarding setting.
So, if you know someone who’s had a hard time finding a new PCP, tell them they can check out how we practice primary care differently at www.directdoctors.org.
Lauren Hedde, DO and Mark Turshen, MD are Family Physicians and Founders of Direct Doctors, Inc. a Direct Primary Care Practice.