The Vanishing Physician
By Ibby Smith Stofer
The vanishing physician role in the crisis of access to care, with or without insurance.
If you have ever had to find a new family physician, specialist or surgeon you share the frustration felt by too many Americans in need of quality care.
The concern that there is a shortage of physicians in America is real. Some of the supporting facts as published by Becker’s Healthcare way back in 2014 included:
- 33% of physicians practicing are over the age of 65 with thoughts if not plans to retire within 3 years.
- Primary Care will take the hardest hit of all the healthcare categories. We will need over 52,000 more primary care physicians by 2025.
- Surgeons and Oncologists are also in high demand. Cancer care is growing at over 42% and oncology practitioners to grow at only 28% and a national shortage of nearly 2000 today.
- Population expansion will require adding 22,000 physicians. Patients over the age of 65 see on average over 14 physicians with over 40 visits per year. It doesn't help that this segment of our population is exploding.
- In need of surgery? Do it before 2020 when general surgeons’ shortage is expected to exceed 21,000 with an overall decline of approximately 21% in that same timeframe.
- Telemedicine adoption has eased some of the physician's workload. It also supports rural areas access to specialist while providing patients wider access to physicians.
- Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are more accepted and taking on a more active role in patient care. Laws are changing to allow team care to fill the physician shortage.
- Nurse practitioners are effective at managing outpatients with chronic conditions and this team approach is helping to fill the gap and improve care.
- Medical schools’ capacity continues to be low, with acceptance below 50%. Adding to that issue, over a third of practicing physicians would not recommend their career choice to younger people.
- Rural America has been hit the hardest by physician shortages. Over 20% of Americans live in these areas. Nearly half of the rural areas are not only experiencing physician shortages, but hospitals are closing at an alarming rate.
As we face the repeal and replacement of Obamacare in the coming months, hopefully, someone will realize that care without physicians, specialists, and surgeons needs to be addressed. This is just one of the multitude of challenges we as American consumers of health care currently confront all too often.