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The Boston Globe

Magazine

The Medical Issue

Why is it so hard to find a doctor?

Half of primary care physicians in our state are not accepting new patients. A prescription for the problem.

KATHRYN QUIRK THOUGHT it would be easy to find a new doctor when she moved from Boston to Newton in 2009, just like it was when she arrived in Boston in 1996. Back then, she walked across the street to a doctor’s office and got an appointment.

It isn’t 1996 anymore. Quirk still hasn’t found a primary care doctor she feels comfortable with. Her quest sounds a lot like dating; in four years she’s had three doctors and has sometimes preferred to get care from physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners who work in those doctors’ offices. With three kids, a husband, and a job, Quirk doesn’t have endless time to look. She’s frustrated that it took her four months to find her first doctor in Newton. When she didn’t connect with that physician, she was able to switch to one she liked. But his practice stopped taking her insurance, and Quirk has needed a good chunk of this year to land a replacement doctor. She felt relief in September when she found one who was accepting new patients, but that was only the first hurdle. She won’t find out whether she likes this new doctor for a while; she couldn’t get an appointment until April 2014.

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