Aug 23 2012
Today's healthcare landscape in the U.S. is fraught with challenges—both to consumers and to practitioners. It's no secret that many parts of the American healthcare system are struggling, primary care perhaps more than most. As the newly published paper explains, this is not a new situation—it has roots in major, deep trends that have been under way for many years, decades even.
Communications company Havas Health, with its deep specialty in health and wellness communications, recently undertook a nationwide study in order to better understand the changing conditions for our primary care practitioners (PCPs) and the state of primary care. We surveyed 259 practitioners in 26 states, and used the results to inform our incisive look at the top 10 trends affecting this group, whom we call the "Cinderella of American Medicine."
"Our deep dive has uncovered a strong sense of ambivalence toward the future of primary care," says Julie Monroid, chief strategy officer, partner, Havas Health. "As the battle rages over healthcare policy and its rising costs, the looming crisis in primary care is being all but ignored. We at Havas Health, who make it our business to stay on top of where health and wellness is headed, have seen this coming, as primary care continues to be undervalued in the U.S. We hope that our look at the trends that will most affect PCPs will help bring a brighter focus on this important group."
Highlights of the trends that have been identified include:
- Dwindling attraction of primary care. The decrease in the numbers of primary care physicians shows no signs of reversing. American medical students view primary care as having a heavier workload and more stress than specialties—but with less pay.
- More talking treatment. Patients are less passive, more active and proactive means that increasingly, physicians must address a patient's self-diagnosis and whether there's need for treatment the patient is requesting.
- Growing diversity. Among the many consequences of the country's growing diversity is that PCPs increasingly need more than great medical skills to do their work well.
- Believing the promise of prevention. Though the notion of prevention is growing ever more popular, there isn't great financial incentive for primary care practices to embrace it—and yet many are.
- Alternative thinking and practice. Patient demand for alternative and complementary medicine is increasingly reflected in the attitudes of PCPs.
- Digital information, just in time. While many physicians have been behind the curve in adopting digital technology to manage their practice (HER/EMR), they're leveraging digital technology to stay ahead of the curve, often sharing online information with patients in real time.
"Our probe into the mindset of primary care providers revealed a number of emerging concerns," said Donna Murphy, global CEO, Havas Health. "This is a field that is not attracting new recruits from medical schools, and yet it's a field that, frankly, is essential for the future of this country. We are seeing the ranks of PCPs shrink, especially in more economically troubled regions—which is precisely where primary care providers are needed the most."
"Our purpose in creating this white paper is to highlight some of the major trends that are creating or adding to the difficulties primary care providers face—and also to flag opportunities for third-party brands and corporations to help them out," said Doug Burcin, global CEO, Havas Health. "We see the health and wellness field holistically, and this survey is just one example of the value we provide for our health and wellness clients—as well as for the entire healthcare community."