According to a study by the Robert Bosch Foundation, there will probably be around 11,000 unfilled general practitioner positions in Germany in 2035. This would result in nearly 40 percent of counties being underserved. The problem is worsened by the increasing age of family physicians. In 2009, only about 22 percent of family physicians were over the age of 60, while today the figure is already over 35 percent. Especially in rural areas, there are hardly any young physicians to step up.
Low attraction for country life
Dr. Christoph Specht, a physician and medical journalist, does not see a shortage of doctors, but a distribution problem. The attractiveness of living in the countryside is low, due to a lack of infrastructure, shopping facilities and cultural offerings. In addition, many young doctors are no longer willing to take on the demanding job of the classic country doctor, who has to be available around the clock. They strive for a better work-life balance in order to have time for family and leisure.
Rural doctor quota
To address this problem, nine German states have already introduced a so-called rural doctor quota. Under this quota, study places are awarded to applicants who contractually commit to working as rural physicians later, regardless of their A-level grades. This is intended to help attract more young doctors to work in rural areas.
France's creative solution to the shortage of doctors in rural areas
In a remote village in Creuse, France, the community struggled for years with a shortage of doctors after the only primary care physician retired. Then Martial Jardel presented his “Médecins solidaires” (Solidary Doctors) project: Every week, a different doctor from around the country takes over the village’s medical center. As a result, doctors do not have to commit themselves to the structurally deficient region on a long-term basis. The project has already provided 2500 treatments and 750 people have chosen the center as their family doctor. Based on its success, Jardel plans to open more medical centers in the region and hopes that more doctors will commit to a week of service to the community to improve access to medical care for hundreds of thousands of people.
Peter Salathe has gained extensive experience in networked healthcare and is part of the m.Doc team as Head of Public Affairs. He accompanies the development and implementation of intelligent health services for the m.Doc Smart Health Platform with communication towards associations and politics. With his expertise he shapes the future of healthcare and writes the contributions to the monthly news briefing “Digital Health Affairs”.