Something that is happening all over the country as family practice physicians are getting smaller in number...BD

Dr. Jim Byrnes already has more patients than most family practices, yet every week his office is hounded by dozens more in desperate search of a doctor.
Six miles west of Byrnes' Delray Beach office, Dr. Robert Cohen is fast building a practice. The Pittsburgh transplant has attracted 2,000 patients in less than a year.

The shortage, though, could be worse than statistics show. The study did not account for the growing number of doctors who abandoned their traditional practice for "concierge medicine," charging patients about $1,500 annually for more personalized medical care. Their offices have a smaller patient load, Wiles said.

A typical office visit will bring a doctor about $30-45. In comparison, reading a stress test nets hundreds of dollars and takes less time, Multach said.

Such challenges are occurring at a national level. About 100,000 family physicians practice in the United States. In less than 15 years, about 140,000 will be needed.

Adding services, which often come with higher reimbursements, can help supplement a doctor's income, Multach said. Insurance and Medicare reimbursements have fallen in the past decade, leading doctors to squeeze in more patients per hour.

Family doctors average 2,000-2,500 patients but Byrnes has more than 3,500. His office has to turn away almost everyone who calls.
Byrnes works about 80 hours a week: He starts his day at 6 a.m. with his patients at the hospital, sees patients in his office during the day and finishes with paperwork by 7:30 p.m. On the weekends, he visits patients in nursing homes.

Palm Beach County faces health care crisis as family practices dwindle: South Florida Sun-Sentinel


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