Shortages of clinical professionals (Physicians)
The Shortage of Health care Providers
Having a well trained mix and number of health professionals in any country is vital to making sure that the nation’s goals of affordable and quality health care services is achieved.
It is important have a healthy labor fore, which ultimately translates to a booming economy, over and above being a basic right to every citizen. This is one of the factors that affect the health care system in America, and it has to be addressed since it affects the future of healthcare system as a whole.
Active doctor figures (2007-2012)
The shortage of health practitioners is a reality in the U.S.A, with future projections being even worse.
The Association of American Medical colleges has predicted that there will be a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors countrywide by the year
Although the number of active doctors has been increasing, the population increase rate is even higher, therefore making deeming the doctors less.
The doctor shortage is so because of the rising population in the country, and not just an absolute shortage.
The doctor supply is less that the health care demand, because of new-age diseases, which are so much, compared to earlier years.
Figure 1. Line graph representing doctor demand/supply projections. From “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2013 to 2025 ,” IHS Inc.
Doctor demand/supply projections
Despite the rising number of doctors, Reports indicate that there is an acute shortage of doctors in all the America. This is an issue that greatly affects and impact the future of complex health care systems greatly.
The ramifications may include the cost of healthcare increasing significantly, because of the supply/demand of healthcare. Further, the life expectancy in future might also reduce, because the citizens will access limited health care services.
One landmark of a healthy nation is the ability to meet the medical demands of its citizens, therefore everything possible should be done to avert the situation.
Reasons for doctor shortage
One in five doctors are reported to be deserting high risk medical practices (including baby deliveries), to venture into other practices
According to a survey by IHS Inc, the largest number of current healthcare providers include the elderly, who are retiring in large numbers.
the Affordable Care has and will lead to the shortage of primary-care physicians (at least by 2016), due to the influx of almost 32 million Americans who are newly insured, which as well combines with a doctor population that is aging. In a nut shell, more people with health insurance translates to more patients.
The government should try to make the medical profession more lucrative. The medical professionals’ exit from the field is alarming and could impact the health care in a negative way in the near future. One of the main reasons why there is massive exit by physicians could be in search of greener pastures in other professions or businesses. According to McIntyre (2009), the state can make a deliberate effort to help retain doctors in the profession. He suggests a plan similar to the G I bill, which could be better named as “the health practitioners bill”. This would be designed as an incentive for the health practitioners, do that they are retained in the field. Another way could be by increasing the medical practitioners’ remuneration. All these are an effort to make sure that the doctors are retained and do not exit the field
Solutions to Doctor shortage
Apart from that, the state can make nationwide legislation, as in several states already, that seeks to extend the physician assistants and nurse-practitioners professionals autonomy by giving them the freedom practice independently of the physicians, but with certain regulations. The legislation might spur controversy, but it is one of the few options we’ve been left with in order to fill the gap being left by the physicians who are leaving the practice everyday. Also, to increase the primary-care physicians’ productivity, it is suggested that physician assistants and nurse-practitioners be ultimately handed more responsibility, like of the physicians.
The fact that most of the active physicians are in their late years of service is in itself a worrying trend. This is attributable to the shortage of doctors, and the future projections of even more shortages. To avert this, the government can:
Encourage more students to join medical schools, by subsidizing tuition fees for medical courses in colleges. This is a futuristic strategy that will see more people join the medical field to fill the gap being left by retiring practitioners. More people will also be encouraged to join when the field is lucrative, by giving competitive perks.
The older generation that practices medicine might deem the future of healthcare with very few physicians because they will certainly retire.
However, the physician intentions to retire can be altered by some short term factors, such as changes in the economic environment that affect wealth), as well as long term trends such as increased longevity and changes in cultural norms regarding traditional retirement age and eligibility ages for government programs (e.g., Medicare). The latter provide the best solution for future physician needs, since it is most suited to sole the problem in a long term projection.
One of the pragmatic measures proposed by experts in the medical field would be to reduce the demand of health care, rather than focus on the supply. This is so important because unless as a nation we want to be dependent on pills and doctors visits all the time, we should have a broadened definition of a what a normal healthy life is. Afterwards, we could prioritize ways to and adopt healthy living patterns. As a society, we ought to nudge our friends and families away from always taking a pill for every minor ill.
The reduction of the demand for doctor’s attention will be enhanced by living healthier lifestyles, such as creating stronger relationships and family ties, group activities in nature, healthy eating, having enough sleep, meditation, etc. There is a vast literature on healthy living that Americans could invest in, which contain practices and attributes that allow people to flourish and live a healthy lifestyle, thereby reducing the trips they make to the doctors.
Many of these new health insurance plans under the ObamaCare program have limited networks. This is because the doctors have to sign up so as to accept the insurance offered on ObamaCare’s marketplaces. Some of these plans are low-cost while others free, a factor that discourages physicians to venture into the field. Also, free plans often have a limited network and the network doctors could get overwhelmed with more patients than they can handle.
The state should combat this by funding health centers, especially in low-income areas. Also, funding and training of new health care professionals and physicians as well as providing incentives for doctors to practice underserved communities will be a very big step in making sure that the problem of doctor shortage is solved, both current and future problems.
The doctors are one of the most important group of people in the society, and their role is so much important and valuable. and there simply won’t be enough of them to go around. The looming shortage will almost inevitably challenge the already-taxed systems of health care and change the way patients and physicians interact because the doctor-patient ratio will rise and there would be straining patient outcomes.
As it is, Primary physicians are expected to see 4 patients in an hour (translating to one in every 15 minutes). This number is likely increase because of the cost and productivity pressures. Unfortunately, this trend will be accompanied by continued downward pressure on their incomes.
It is for this reason that radical measures are supposed to be taken, to make sure that the trend doesn’t continue as it is going, because it will be detrimental to the country, and it’s citizens in general.
McIntyre, C. (2009). People and health care USA. Bloomington, Ind.: Authorhouse.
IHS Inc, (2015) “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2013 to 2025”