HCGH Announces Practice Howard Program

Support offered to new doctors to fill shortfall in primary care physicians

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2019

Media contact:
Sharon Sopp
410-740-7646
ssopp@jhmi.edu

Columbia, MD – Howard County General Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, today announced the launch of Practice Howard, an innovative program designed to reduce the shortage of primary care physicians in Howard County.

The program is a joint effort with the Howard County government, which is providing grant funding to support new physicians and their practices.

Through Practice Howard, new physicians and their practices in Howard County, which were selected through a competitive evaluation process, will receive resources to cover:

  • Physician recruitment costs, such as advertising and other outreach.
  • Education and training on innovative care delivery models for all practice staff.
  • Loan repayment and housing assistance for doctors.
  • Stop-gap funding to cover initial billing losses common when establishing a practice.

“Making sure there is access to care is a critical component of the health of our community,” said Howard County General Hospital President Steve Snelgrove. “Our hospital is committed to working to address this challenge, and there is no stronger or more committed partner than the Howard County government. Special thanks to County Executive Calvin Ball for participating in the launch and for his strong support of the program.”

Johns Hopkins Health System research shows that the county faces a significant shortage of about 80 primary care physicians and internists within five years. The shortage will be caused by increased demand from population growth, including a disproportionate increase in residents over age 55, combined with reduced supply, as more community doctors approach retirement.

Becoming a primary care physician is often not an attractive choice for doctors right out of medical school. The pay is less than that for other specialties, a major factor for students who amass debts that frequently exceed $300,000. Additionally, if a medical practice can find a doctor to recruit, low reimbursement rates by insurance companies mean that office is likely to lose money, at least initially, when it hires the new physician.

Through a formal bid process that included hospital, county and community representation, two medical practices have been selected to participate in the first year of the program. Columbia Medical Practice and Centennial Medical Group are now recruiting for new hires, and doctors are expected to start by the summer.

Resources will be provided to physicians and their practices in an amount of approximately $60,000 per year for five years. Doctors must agree to live in Howard County and maintain their practice for at least five years.

Within a few months, it is expected that 4,000 Howard County residents will have better access to primary care, with the number doubling in a year, depending on additional resources. Greater access to physicians will mean fewer emergency room visits, better treatment of chronic conditions and more screenings and disease prevention. Funds to support targeted training will help address mental health screening and referrals.

By working with primary care practices in the area, like Centennial Medical Group and Columbia Medical Practice, this program creates a model integrating primary care with urgent care to provide access, reduce provider burnout, promote proper utilization of resources and manage chronic conditions.

Access to care is one of the four main focus areas to improve Howard County’s health as identified by the Local Health Improvement Coalition. The others are obesity, better behavioral health and healthy aging to reduce to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and falls.

About Howard County General Hospital

Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine is a not-for-profit health care provider with 245 licensed beds located in Columbia, Maryland. A comprehensive, acute-care medical center, Howard County General offers a full range of services, from neonatal care and oncology to outpatient treatment and critical care.

The hospital has a professional staff of more than 900 physicians and allied health professionals, representing more than 90 specialties and subspecialties; a workforce of more than 1,800 individuals and over 300 volunteers.