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Infectious disease patients rely on primary care physicians

A recent American College of Physicians meeting highlighted the increasing pressure on primary care physicians to treat complex infectious diseases, such as hepatitis C.

ACP conference
During the conference, Norah Terrault, M.D., noted that hepatitis C has led to more deaths than HIV in the past several years, and that many people currently living with the condition aren't aware of their status, according to American Medical News. 

The ACP sessions reflected trends in the medical field and sought to inform doctors on how to better their practices. One such trend was the prevalence of hepatitis C and other communicable diseases, as well as the changing role of care providers in these areas of public health. 

The source stated that there has been an increase in the treatment of patients with infectious diseases by primary care doctors, due in part to a lack of specialists. This reduces the amount of time that physicians have for office visits and training in specific areas of treatment. The shortage of specialists is particularly prevalent in rural areas. 

Too few ID specialists
In a question-and-answer session with Healio, Infectious Disease News editorial board member Michael Tapper, M.D., noted that the shortage of specialists is due in part to the lack of medical school graduates who choose to specialize in internal medicine and pediatrics, which is necessary to do before specializing in infectious diseases. There is also an increasing need for careers with more predictable hours than this particular subspecialty, he said. 

One initiative for improving primary care doctors' ability to treat infectious diseases in the face of a specialist shortage is to utilize online STD testing clinics. This allows individuals living in areas where there are few specialists to quickly obtain a diagnosis, so they can be aware of their condition before seeking further treatment.