DEDHAM, Mass. — Hundreds of South Shore patients were left scrambling to find new doctors last month after Compass Medical abruptly closed six clinics south of Boston.
The sudden loss of the clinics added to the growing nationwide shortage of primary care doctors. The U.S. is expected to lose between 21,000 and 55,000 primary care physicians by the year 2033, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
“There’s been a chronic shortage of primary care doctors for many years and the problem is only getting worse,” said Boston Consumers’ Checkbook Executive Editor Kevin Brasler.
Brasler has this advice if you’re in the market for a new doctor:
BEWARE THE CONCIERGE MODEL
Concierge Medicine—also known as Retainer Medicine—requires the patient to pay a doctor an annual fee in exchange for enhanced care, like guaranteed availability and adequate time for each patient. Brasler says if a doctor requires this fee, make sure you know what it comes with and if it’s worth the price.
“Essentially, what they’re doing is charging an annual fee for the privilege of being one of their patients. Sometimes you get a lot of extra services for that and sometimes you don’t,” Brasler said. “A lot of people have actually been priced out of finding a new primary physician [because of Concierge Medicine].”
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Brasler recommends looking for online reviews to find out what other patients are saying about their doctor. Boston Consumers’ Checkbook has its own database with independent ratings and reviews for 474 Boston-area physicians.
“The main [concern] is will [the doctor] listen and communicate with you? A lot of people complain that their doctors aren’t listening to them and that is crucial in a primary care setting,” Brasler said.
BE CAREFUL OF ONLINE RATINGS
Brasler says to be careful reading some online reviews. If you’re looking at patient ratings, make sure it’s a large sample size and at least 30 patients have judged that doctor. Also, be aware some websites may have a financial incentive to post glowing reviews of doctors.
“I think it’s really important to look at the source of information before you chose to see a doctor. It may be [the website is] saying nice things about the doctor because it has a financial relationship with them,” Brasler said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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