Inpatient care declining among family physicians


The proportion of family physicians providing inpatient care dropped 26% over a recent 5-year span, and by 2017, only one of four FPs was practicing hospital medicine, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Family physicians who reported providing inpatient care

The share of family physicians who provided hospital care went from 34.1% in 2013 to 25.2% in 2017, for a relative decrease of 26% that left only a quarter of FPs seeing inpatients, based on data from the annual American Board of Family Medicine certification exam application questionnaire. For the 5-year period, 46,762 individuals were included in the study sample of FPs in direct patient care.

“As observed in other domains (prenatal care, home visits, nursing home care, and obstetric care), this study adds to the evidence demonstrating contracting scope of practice among FPs,” Anuradha Jetty, MPH, of the AAFP’s Robert Graham Center in Washington, D.C., and associates said in a recent Policy Brief published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Much of that contraction is occurring among new family physicians who can’t “find positions that allow them to use all their expertise,” the investigators said in a separate statement. The AAFP had previously reported that about 40% of family physicians had full hospital privileges in 2018, compared with 56% in 2012.

Many new FPs now work in large multispecialty practices or hospital systems, and “[some] of these employers dictate scope of practice, limiting family physicians to coordinating outpatient care and relying on subspecialists or hospitalists to provide inpatient care,” they noted.

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