The Demand for Family Physicians is Projected to Increase Significantly over the Next Decade

A recent study conducted by the Annals of Family Medicine concludes the United States will require nearly 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025 to meet the country’s growing health care needs.  That’s the conclusion published by a research team and highlighted in an article titled “Projecting U.S. Primary Care Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2025.

From the study: “…the total number of office visits to primary care physicians is projected to increase from 462 million in 2008 to 565 million in 2025. After incorporating insurance expansion, the United States will require nearly 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025.”

Family physicians will be entering the workforce with a very marketable and sought-after medical degree to fill a growing need—putting family physicians in the driver’s seat to choose opportunities, locations, and patient base. Further, with the laws of supply and demand at work, it seems that selecting any of the primary care areas, including, of course, family medicine, will provide an increasing opportunity for higher income hand-in-hand with increasing job security.

Earn increased income as demand for family physicians increases

For many students, mounting school loans and debt after medical school is reason for landing an opportunity that pays well right out of the gate. We’re here to tell you that family medicine does pay well – and is increasingly paying even better – with the rising need for quality family physicians.

According to a recent study released by the Medical Group Management Association, data will show family physicians with annual incomes around $200,000 in 2013. That is almost a 6% increase from the average annual income of $189,000 reported in 2012 (which was up 6% from 2011). Bottom line? Increased income for family physicians is on the rise – and this positive trend is expected to continue.

Considerations for increasing your income as a family physician

Potential earnings are certainly a valid consideration for many students as they face the realities of mounting school loans and debt.  And because there’s a tendency for students to think that choosing family medicine won’t pay as well as other specialties—we want to set the record straight with the possibilities.  The truth is: you absolutely can earn a significant income as a family physician—far more than reported averages.

Robert DeLuca, DO, FACOFP, a practicing family physician, is a successful example of this. He shares four concrete ways for family physicians to enhance their earnings.

1. Receive ongoing, quarterly bonus checks from the government for locating in an underserved area.  

Did you know the federal government sends quarterly bonus check to family physicians serving in an “HPSA” designated area?  HPSA stands for Health Professional Shortage Area. An HPSA area may be designated based on the geographic area, the population groups, or the facilities.

“The purpose of a HPSA designation is to improve access to health care where there is a shortage of providers.  One way that this is done is through the incentive of a 10% Medicare bonus.  When an area is designated as a Geographic HPSA, all physicians working in the HPSA are eligible for the additional 10% Medicare payment.  Primary care physicians and specialists, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists, and even medical tele-consultants are all eligible for the incentive payment for practicing in the Geographic HPSA.  Although the HPSA project is based on the study of primary care, all disciplines benefit.

The bonus is paid quarterly in the form of a check. It is separate from accounts receivable and does not affect patient charges. It is simply a gift for working in the underserved area.”

This program also provides loan repayment incentives.

The government also encourages physicians to work in underserved areas with the following loan and scholarship programs.

2. Receive a “Medical Home” designation—and receive more money from Medicare.

If you have a “Medical Home” designation, you’ll receive more money from Medicare.

According to Dr. DeLuca, “Most models today are moving toward a “Medical Home Model” based on a partnership between the patient and family and the primary provider. It’s a team approach of healthcare providers, which is the basis for most healthcare laws and policies.

At the foundation of the Medical Home model is family practice.  An internist or pediatrician or OB/GYN can also be at foundation at the Medical Home model; but by far the physicians managing Medical Home are in family medicine.

Learn more about a “Medical Home” from the HRSA.

3. Diversify.

Family medicine enables you to diversify.  Take advantage of it. “On any given day,” says Dr. DeLuca, “I can see patients in my office, admit people into the hospital, I can travel to the nursing home and see patients there, make home visits to see patients in their residences, provide OMT, see children, and so on…”.  Family physicians can even work in the ER. This diversification “allows for the ups and downs in medicine.” Says Dr. DeLuca. “If it’s a slow week in the office, (which is rare) I can schedule time at the nursing home where 80 patients need attention. In other words, there’s more to do than you can take care of. “ This helps assure a consistent and healthy income stream.

4. Charge separately for OMT.

OMT is another tool to improve patient welfare. When performed, it can and should be legitimately billed above and beyond an office visit. In general, Medicare and insurance reimburse for OMT.