Are we on the brink of a physician shortage of epic proportions?
According to new research from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), physicians in the U.S. are in short supply and the demand is growing. It is estimated that by 2025, the U.S. will need between 61,700 and 94,700 more doctors, with many surgical specialties facing a drastic shortfall.
Since most physician training programs take between eight and 12 years, swift action will be needed to meaningfully ease the coming shortage.
“Unfortunately, these numbers do not come as a big surprise to most medical professionals,” says Dr. Leo Kelly, Vice President of Medical Management at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “The Affordable Care Act did a lot of good by ensuring that all of the people who need care have access to it. At the same time, when more people need care, we also must have more people providing it.”
Dr. Kelly points out that many people live in metropolitan areas, where they will continue to have access to care, but he has concerns about how the lack of physicians may continue to grow in more rural areas. When he thinks about the nation as a whole, it will be “imperative that we develop some unique and innovative solutions to ensure people everywhere have access to the health and wellness information they deserve,” he says.
As a health care executive, these are the types of challenges Dr. Kelly deals with on a daily basis.
Some of the potential solutions he foresees include:
1. Increase in the use of Advance Practice Nurses (APNs) within Primary Care.
APNs have a wealth of knowledge, provide excellent care and are already seeing patients within the primary care environment. This is a trend that will continue to grow as health care expands to provide more care to more people.
2. More patient access through clinics rather than primary care offices.
This is another trend that is already becoming more popular and dependable. For example, beginning on May 18, Advocate Health Care will begin operating 56 of the Walgreens health clinics in the Chicagoland area. Advocate Clinic at Walgreens will offer consumers access to high quality, affordable health care options in convenient, neighborhood locations.
3. Growth in telehealth and virtual visits.
For many common or minor illnesses, an in-person conversation with your physician may not be necessary. Virtual visits take place through your computer much like a Skype or FaceTime conversations, and provide the patient the opportunity to explain their symptoms and receive a prescription in a manner that is convenient for both the patient and the physician. One such telehealth program is being piloted by Advocate Health Care in behavioral health medicine. Physicians provide consultation to hospitals where behavioral medicine professionals are in shorter supply and unavailable to provide round-the-clock care in person.
About the Author
Mickey Ramirez, health enews contributor, is the director of Brand Services. He enjoys kimchi, honesty and a room with a view. He claims to not be a writer, but he occasionally learns information that is just too important to keep to himself.