Cincinnati area doesn't have enough primary-care physicians, study says

Shortage expected to worsen as need grows

CINCINNATI - There is a shortage of 200 primary-care physicians in Greater Cincinnati and it's going to get worse as health-care reform takes full effect, a new study says.

The shortage will grow to 250 by 2017 as thousands more people enter the health-care system, the study says.

Butler and Clermont counties are underserved by 73 and 72 physicians, respectively, according to the study. In the nine-county area, only Hamilton County approaches the national ratio for primary-care physicians to population.

See the county-by-county figures in the chart below.

Finding doctors to fill the void won't be easy because fewer are entering family or internal medicine, choosing a higher paying specialty instead, the study says.

About 164,000 uninsured Greater Cincinnatians will get health insurance from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and many of them don’t have a primary-care physician, the study says.

“There will be a pent-up demand for primary-care providers among those newly covered,” said Dr. Robyn Chatman, president of the Academy of Medicine of Cincinnati and a local primary-care provider.

Chatman was the primary author of the study report released Thursday.

"The study told us that we have some issues,” Chatman told 9 On Your Side’s Jay Warren. “We don't have enough primary-care physicians, and in the areas where we even had the largest numbers the distribution of those physicians was not optimal."

In other words, even some people in Hamilton County have to go out of their neighborhood to find one.

"We've got to find a way to train more primary-care physicians. We've got to find a way to make primary care more attractive to medical students, and we've got to find a way to address the costs of a medical education so that students are more inclined to go into primary care," Chatman said.

She said one way is to pay their student debt with federal subsidies.

"I think we need to reward those students who say, ‘This is where the need is, this is where I'm going to work.’ And then to those students, we say, ‘OK, for every year that you work in this underserved area, we're going to pay off your loans for this year.’"

Besides the doctor shortage, the lack of public transportation in some areas and providers who don’t accept Medicaid keep some people from obtaining primary care, the report said.

“We must address the barriers to care that could prevent newly covered individuals from seeing primary-care providers," said Judith Warren, CEO of Health Care Access Now.

The report recommends:

• Expanding community health centers
• Using creative ideas to recruit primary-care physicians here
• Promoting the Patient Centered Medical Home concept
• Making better use of electronic health information to improve efficiency.

The study was commissioned by the Executive Stakeholders’ Council (ESC), a cross-section of business, health care and community leaders formed to improve health and health care in the region.

Review highlights of the report at

Read the full report at

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