Prepare for Primary-care Doctor Shortage | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 February 2013 15:18

There’s a crisis in primary health care. In some cities, almost 90 percent of primary-care physicians are not accepting new patients because their practices are full. And, it’s only going to get worse, warns noted physician and emeritus professor of medicine Dr. Paul Griner, a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

“In 2014, 32 million people currently without health insurance will become insured and there will be nowhere near enough primary-care physicians to meet their needs,” Griner says.

“Less than 20 percent of new physicians are entering primary care, which includes the specialties of family medicine, general internal medicine and general pediatrics.”

Griner, an internist and longtime advocate of physician-patient relationship as the first and most vital diagnostic tool, says it’s important to find a doctor who will take the time to listen to you. But first, you need to decide what kind of primary-care physician will best meet your needs.

For instance, a family physician can care for both you and your children. A general internist is trained for the care of adults. A geriatrician has additional training in the care of older patients. A gynecologist may also have an interest in primary care.

Once you’ve made that decision, he offers these suggestions for qualities to look for:

•Someone who is interested in knowing the whole patient — not just the illness.

•A patient-centered atmosphere in the office

•Someone who is a good listener.

•Someone who is willing to say, “I don’t know,” but does know where to go to get the answer.

•Readiness to use the latest technology for communicating with patients, such as the I-phone, e-mail or Skype.

•Someone who values team care and values the role of advanced-practice nurses or physician’s assistants.

“Ask around,” Griner says. “Get recommendations from friends and colleagues; the experience of other patients is always helpful. Askyour county medical society for names of physicians who are accepting new patients, or ask the premier hospital in your area, then check their credentials and look for feedback about timeliness, friendliness, etc., online.”

Hematologist/internist Paul Griner has had a 59-year career in medicine. He is author of the book, “The Power of Patient Stories: Learning Moments in Medicine.” He can be reached at



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