By opening a new comprehensive care group in Piscataway, St. Peter’s University Hospital is addressing the growing need for primary-care physicians, but the practice could be facing an uphill battle, according to a local expert.
On Thursday, St. Peter’s announced a June 2 open house for community members to meet the staff at the new location. Drs. Archna Parmar and Palak Moondra intend to address the needs of the growing, and aging, population of South Asians in Piscataway.
Dr. Al Tallia, professor and chair of family medicine and community health at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said the two doctors, both Edison natives, will have no problem catering to one cultural group because the need for primary-care physicians across the board is so great.
“We have one of the highest concentrations of specialty physicians in the United States — we’re in the top five — but in terms of primary care, we’re in the bottom five,” Tallia said. “It’s a real problem, because health care has discovered the value of primary care, but there’s a real shortage in New Jersey.”
Tallia attributes the shortage of primary-care physicians in the state to smaller financial incentives than specialty practices, as well as the expense of health care in general, which discourages medical students to enter the field.
Parmar and Moondra have expressed a desire to serve the medical needs of people near their hometown but the new practice also can serve as an economic boon to the area.
“The economic value of a primary care practice to a community is factored at over $1 million a year,” Tallia said, citing research by the Robert Graham Center, a Washington, D.C., primary-care research and policy center.
Tallia said many primary-care groups are organized like small businesses, and the Graham Center looks at value in terms of employment, purchases, overhead and “the economic value of getting people healthy and well and back into the work force.”
Tallia recommends new primary care centers explore new structures of care, and to measure the outcomes of care given in varied ways, because the industry is in flux, and these centers will need to be flexible as the industry changes.
“This is the best of times and the worst of times — the best of times because people are rediscovering primary care, the worst of times because the economics still haven’t significantly changed yet,” Talia said. “If you look at other states around the country, the economics are changing for the better — New Jersey just needs to get it together and get on the bandwagon.”