There are layers to the well-documented and much-fretted-over primary care physician shortage, a study in Annals of Family Medicine reminds us. The percentage of family physicians who care for children decreased from 78% in 2000 to 68% in 2009, and that presents challenges.
‘Family physicians, especially in rural and underserved areas, may face impossible demands to care for a larger insured population, resulting in decreased capacity to provide care for children,’ the authors write. ‘Additionally, current geographic maldistribution of the child health care physician workforce is leading to difficulty with access to care for many children and families.’ They also point out, ‘Family physicians who provide care of children are more likely to provide maternity care.’
The authors cite several possible approaches to this problem, including fostering more interest in pediatric care among medical students.
‘Obstetric and perinatal training are important elements of family medicine residences if family physicians are to care for children,’ say the authors.
They add, ‘Children with a usual source of care have better health outcomes, including more preventive health counseling and fewer avoidable hospitalizations, than children who do not. Furthermore, access to patient-centered, comprehensive primary care has been shown to improve delivery of preventive services and decrease unmet medical needs of children.’
Source: Factors Influencing Family Physicians’ Contribution to the Child Health Care Workforce, Annals of Family Medicine, September/October 2014