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County Executive Ball Announces Launch of Practice Howard Program

County Executive Ball Announces Launch of Practice Howard Program

March 29, 2019

Media Contact:
Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412

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

COLUMBIA, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and Howard County General Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, today announced the launch of Practice Howard, an innovative program designed to reduce a shortage of primary care physicians in Howard County. The program is a joint public-private partnership with Howard County government, which is providing grant funding to support new physicians and their practices. Photos from the announcement event can be found here. Video of the announcement can be found here.

“Our goal is to make Howard County the healthiest community in the country,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “Practice Howard is an innovative program that will help us address a critical need for doctors. We all know that our community is a wonderful place to call home, and through the Practice Howard program, more doctors will be coming home to Howard County.”

Through Practice Howard, new physicians and their practices in Howard County (selected through a competitive evaluation process) will receive resources that will cover:

  • Physician recruitment costs like 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 with our partners to address this challenge, and there is no stronger or more committed partner than Howard County government led by County Executive Calvin Ball.”

Johns Hopkins Health System research shows that the county faces a significant shortage of about 80 primary care physicians and internists within five years, 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 unfortunately 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. And 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 brings the new person on. Greater access to physicians will mean fewer emergency room visits, better treatment of chronic conditions, and more screenings and disease prevention.

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.

“At Centennial Medical Group, we are creating a medical home model integrating primary care with urgent care that intends to provide access, reduce provider burnout and promote proper utilization of resources,” said Rajiv Dua, MD. “We believe that recruiting and retaining new primary care physicians in this model will provide benefits to the county as a whole.”

“We believe that loan repayment will be a key element in attracting and retaining well-qualified candidates due to the substantial debt of many recent graduates,” said DeWayne L. Oberlander, CEO of Columbia Medical Practice. “We also believe that funds to support targeted training will help us address mental health screening and referrals and management of chronic conditions.”

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.