There is already a doctor shortage in the United States due to the demands from an expanding and aging population. Combined with the influx of 40 million newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act, this issue will persist. In fact, the doctor shortage is predicted to exacerbate, producing a shortage of 46,000-90,000 physicians by 2025. In order for patients to have access to necessary care in the future, it is integral that this issue be addressed now.
Ultimately, there is an impending shortage of primary care doctors more so than any other specialty. These are the general doctors who act as both the first contact for an undiagnosed concern and the common contact for continued appointments. According to studies, only 2% of medical students desire a career in primary care rather than a subspecialty. In addition, primary care practitioners are more likely to be displeased with their profession. Here lies the issue. We are confronted with an enduring shortage of primary care doctors, yet the majority of young doctors are disinterested in pursuing this specialty. What, if anything, can be done to combat this imminent shortage?
In a 2013 report by The Wall Street Journal, a number of experts share their opinions and concerns regarding the doctor shortage. As it is a controversial topic, these experts present varying recommendations regarding the best way to combat such an issue.
- Harlan Krumholz, Cardiologist and the Harold H. Hines Jr. professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health at Yale University School of Medicine, believes that our assumptions could be impairing us. "We can alleviate any shortages and improve the work conditions at the same time by better organization of the way we deliver care. We need to re-envision the work of doctors and how best to leverage their time. We should begin with a commitment to developing systems that match physicians with tasks that uniquely require their contributions. They should be supported in the clerical and documentation tasks."
- Fred Hassan, Chairman of Bausch & Lomb, thinks we should make it easier to become a doctor. One of his recommendations is to "benchmark premedical and medical-school costs with other advanced countries and find ways to drop the present total price tag of about half a million dollars to become a doctor in the U.S. This cost in the U.S. can be double that of many other countries."
- Susan DeVore, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Premier Inc. health-care alliance, suggests that we leverage under-used care providers: "There's no way to replace the care a physician provides when it is needed. But one way to alleviate physician shortages is to leverage underutilized agents in the clinical and community setting, such as nurses and other care providers."
The list of potential solutions goes on, but I have chosen what I believe to be the three best recommendations. Find out what these recommendations are and why they are the best by downloading the content below!
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