Workforce Shortages and Payment Reform

Posted in Payment Reform, workforce on October 20th, 2010 by MMS – 1 Comment

223530CM_WorkkForceCover_09Today, we released our ninth annual Physician Workforce Study, and for the fifth straight year, primary care specialties weighed in with troubling findings.

Internal medicine and family practice were judged to be in the “critical” category. Labor shortages in eight other specialties were serious enough to be placed in the “severe” category.

What can we make of this?

The hottest discussion topic this year is payment reform – shifting the dominant payment methodology from fee-for-service to global payments. This shift is often portrayed as saving primary care, and it might. But the transition process is certain to be difficult and bumpy. Even if it succeeds, there will probably be painful setbacks.

It’s clear (again) from our study that the primary care workforce is in a precarious position. For example, wait times for new appointments were the longest of the specialties we studied – by a long shot. If a workforce is healthy, new patients don’t wait an average of 53 days to see an internist. And, you’d also see many more than half of internal medicine practices open to new patients.

This isn’t to argue that payment reform shouldn’t be tried. But our report provides even more evidence that any changes must be introduced very, very carefully.

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