Apr 22, 2018
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Where Have You Gone Marcus Welby?

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The New York Times had an interesting article about the lack of primary care doctors.  Long hours and low pay have transformed pediatric or family practices into unattractive options for many aspiring physicians. The days of Marcus Welby are long gone.

“People are flocking to retail clinics and urgent care centers in strip malls or shopping centers, where simple health needs can usually be tended to by health professionals like nurse practitioners or physician assistants much more cheaply than in a doctor’s office. Some 12,000 are already scattered across the country, according to Merchant Medicine, a consulting firm.”

Giant corporations like CVS Health, the drugstore chain, and most recently Walmart, are eyeing deals with Aetna and Humana, respectively, to use their stores to deliver medical care.  The new deals involving major corporations increase pressure on small practices and push them closer to extinction.  In California, Apple recently decided to open up its own clinics to treat employees. Other companies are offering their workers the option of seeking medical care via their cellphones.

Investors are also pouring money into businesses aiming to create new ways of providing primary care by relying more heavily on technology.  By using sophisticated computer systems, One Medical, which employs 400 doctors and health staff members in eight major cities, allows its physicians to spend a half-hour with every patient.

“Big hospital groups are also eroding primary care practices: They employed 43 percent of the nation’s primary care doctors in 2016, up from 23 percent in 2010. They are also aggressively opening up their own urgent care centers, in part to try to ensure a steady flow of patients to their facilities.”



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