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We have to prepare for a future with fewer primary care doctors

Heather Hopp-Bruce/tippapatt/Adobe

As Jessica Bartlett recently reported (“Fewer doctors means longer wait for care,” Page A1, March 17), the number of primary care physicians in Massachusetts is dwindling. The future of the field is dependent not on how we find or train more primary care physicians but on how we adjust to a future with fewer of them.

Primary care delivery is in need of transformation. Part of that involves reinventing how we engage with patients to manage chronic illness and acute care as well as ensure quality by better evaluating where care is delivered and by whom.

In certain instances, medical services are best provided outside of the doctor’s office. There is an opportunity to invest in and improve access to telehealth and care-at-home programs to ensure that patients are receiving the best care in the right setting.


If you look to countries outside the United States, most preventive and screening services are provided by caregivers who are not physicians, such as community health workers and nurses. Distributing health care services among others where appropriate will ensure greater access to primary care physicians for elevated concerns.

We know that shortages of primary care physicians remain on the horizon; what matters most is how we, as an industry, will disrupt the current system to better serve patients.

Dr. Frank Osborn

Chief medical officer

Tufts Medicine Integrated Network