Osteopaths: Another piece of the patient-access puzzle

It's no secret primary care is experiencing an access crunch, especially in rural parts of the United States. But one of the less-discussed solutions is the role of the osteopathic physician or D.O.

Doctors of osteopathy--whose four-year training includes a heavy emphasis on preventive care--are significantly more drawn to primary care (60 percent) than their M.D. counterparts (24 percent), according to Kaiser Health News and The Washington Post.

What's more, the fast-growing field of osteopathy, which has existed since the 1800s, has traditionally attracted more older applicants toward training programs and succeeded in keeping more D.O.s practicing in the rural locations where they trained.

Although D.O. education is slightly less expensive and competitive than M.D. programs, the article explained, most D.O.s are required to take college pre-med classes and the Medical College Admission Test.

However, while D.O.s are now considered to have mostly the same job opportunities in groups and hospitals as M.D.s, specialized fields such as surgery and cardiology still hold some bias toward hiring only medical doctors, Cody Futch, senior director of recruiting at the physician employment firm Meritt Hawkins, told the newspaper.

But regardless of what types of providers your practice is eying  to help improve patient access upon Affordable Care Act implementation, a recent article from Medical Economics cautions against adding clinicians to the payroll unnecessarily.

While it's always a good idea to plan for your recruiting needs in advance, your first step should be to consider how you can optimize your scheduling process to optimize patient access with the team you already have, Judy Bee, a consultant with Practice Performance Group in La Jolla, California, wrote.

To learn more:
- read the article from Kaiser Health News and the Washington Post
- see the article from Medical Economics

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