Are Primary Care Physicians Unsung Heroes?

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Health Care Reform Spurs Optimism among Some Physicians

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In terms of compensation for services rendered, primary care providers lag behind other colleagues in the medical profession. Often, the perception is that primary care providers are over-worked and under-appreciated.

Primary care doctors are the true gatekeepers to the U.S. health care system, but how much their services are valued vis-à-vis other medical specialists is open to discussion, according to an article appearing in the newly revised Jackson & Coker Industry Report.

“There’s no doubt that family medicine physicians are the linchpin of health care delivery in the United States, as they initially treat patients who are often referred to other physicians for specialized medical care,” mentioned Gary Belancik, Vice President of Primary Care for Atlanta-based recruitment firm Jackson & Coker.

“In terms of compensation for services rendered, though, primary care providers lag behind other colleagues in the medical profession. Often, the perception is that primary care providers are over-worked and under-appreciated. Hopefully, the situation will change with the onset of health care reform,” Mr. Belancik explained.

These and similar matters are discussed in a JCIR special report entitled “What’s in the Future for Primary Care Physicians?—Maybe a Surprise.” The report begins by discussing primary care as the medical specialty that apparently “gets no respect,” with providers facing economic and professional pressure pursuing what those outside the profession sometimes label as a “dead end” career. The fact that major research grants are funneled into other specialties limits fellowship opportunities and further curtails practitioners’ earning potential.

The article takes a look at other factors facing primary care physicians: job dissatisfaction, burnout, dramatic increase in nonclinical paperwork, and a dramatic decrease in reimbursable income. As a result, according to some studies, nearly half of family medicine physicians contemplate significantly reducing their patient loads, leaving the profession, or retiring early.

The special report points out a bright side to the situation. For one thing, the option of working locum tenens assignments is particularly attractive to some primary care doctors. Being able to travel to different locations--while earning a decent income, but not being burdened by the details of practice management—is particularly appealing to physicians drawn to the locum lifestyle.

Another ray of hope involves the passage of health care reform. Certain provisions call for special loan forgiveness for primary care doctors working in underserved areas, as well as new funding for “teaching health centers”—i.e., residency programs set in community health centers or other non-hospital clinical settings. Also, doctors who make a five-year commitment to such service are eligible for a special bonus, the report notes.

Furthermore, as many more patients are brought into the health system, the wider adoption of patient-centered medical homes should result in the services of primary care doctors being considered more valuable and matched by higher compensation.

Obviously, many details for health care reform remain to be worked out. Yet some primary care doctors are optimistic that their specialty will be “redefined,” affording them greater professional respect and increased earning potential.

“It would seem that for too long, primary care doctors have been taken for granted by many patients, other caregivers and payers,” Mr. Belancik remarked. “Certainly these ‘unsung heroes’ deserve recognition for being the ‘burden bearers’ at the entry point of patient care. What would we do without them?”

The completely revamped Jackson & Coker Industry Report has increased functionality, including a search engine, share functions including major social media outlets, and an RSS feed. A list of the most viewed and most commented on articles is now available, to help readers stay abreast of the latest hot topics. The new design greatly simplifies navigation within the newsletter and access to other Jackson & Coker resources. Here is the link to the JCIR special report:

About Jackson & Coker
Begun over three decades ago, Jackson & Coker has been a leader in physician recruitment through the placement of physicians in both permanent placement and locum tenens physician jobs. The firm specializes in anesthesiology jobs, CRNA jobs, neurology jobs, psychiatry jobs, surgery jobs, primary care jobs as well as emergency medicine jobs. Headquartered in metro Atlanta, the firm has earned a reputation for providing cost-effective, time-sensitive solutions to both government and commercial health care organizations. The recruitment staff works in two divisions of the company: Retained Search, which places physicians in over 40 medical specialties in permanent staff positions, and locum tenens, a staffing model that recruits medical providers (physicians and CRNAs) for temporary vacancies.

Jackson & Coker has earned a “Gold Seal” designation as a “Certified Health Care Staffing Service” by the Joint Commission and is affiliated with a credentials verification organization (JH CVO) that has received certification by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) in ten out of ten credentialing elements.

Jackson & Coker participates in social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter—including managing separate Twitter sites focused on major medical specialties. Links are provided here:

Media Contact:
Edward McEachern
Email: emceachern(at)jacksoncoker(dot)com


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