Bioethics Blogs

Does your primary care physician actually provide your primary care?


You’ve
just moved to a new city for a new job, and before you can find a primary care
practice, you get sick.  So you visit an
urgent care center.  The doctor examines
you, treats you, and urges you in not-so-subtle (and sometimes judgmental)
terms to quickly find and follow up with a PCP. 
And so the search begins.


 


Step
1: Consult Google.  Find 150 doctors
within 50 miles.  Realize you know
nothing about any of the doctors on the list.


Step
2: Ask colleagues for recommendations. 
Receive great reviews of 2 doctors.


Step
3: Call the recommended doctors.  None
are taking new patients.


Step
4: Realize you have insurance that limits your options.  Scrap your Google search and search on your
insurance company’s website for “find available doctors taking new patients.”
Results: 3 doctors.


Step
5: Call the doctors listed.  Doctor 1
isn’t taking new patients at all.  Doctor
2 is taking new patients in 4 months. 
Doctor 3 may be able to fit you in in two weeks.


Step
6: Give up the search.


Step
7: Symptoms return. Call a PCP office to beg for an earlier visit.  They agree to fit you in in 4 days.  In the meantime, they suggest visiting an
urgent care facility for timely treatment. 


 


It
has been widely discussed among bioethicists and health care policy experts
that emergency departments are overcrowded, urgent care centers are rapidly
becoming a substitute for the traditional primary care doctor, and that the
number of new physicians specializing in primary care medicine has been
declining in favor of other, higher-paying specialties.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.