Primary care provider shortage forecast may be inaccurate, study finds

Despite widespread forecasts that the country will face a primary care shortage due to more patients seeking services as a result of the Affordable Care Act, a new study in Health Affairs suggests the forecasts may be inaccurate because they don't account for changes in the way primary care is delivered. Researchers found that projected physician shortages aren't nearly as dire when taking the patient-centered medical homes and nurse-managed health centers into account. The models offer a provider mix of nurse practitioners and physician assistants without the need for more physicians, according to the study. Researchers acknowledged that the two models may require changes to scope-of-practice laws, a payment structure that rewards providers for population health management and large panel sizes instead of face-to-face visits with physicians, and a larger supply of medical assistants, and licensed practical nurses and aides to perform other key functions in new models of integrated care. Study abstract