Is Solving the Physician Shortage Crisis a Long Shot?
As a result of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, it is expected that nearly 32 million newly insured Americans will be entering the healthcare system. This, coupled with the large number of baby boomers turning 65 and becoming eligible for Medicare in the next 10 years, means a significant increase in the demand for medical providers to take care of these populations. In response to this expected growth in the demand for medical providers, the AAMC has predicted a shortage of 130,000 physicians by 2025, particularly in the area of Primary Care Physicians.
In order to address this issue, many solutions have been suggested. One option is to pressure Congress to increase the number of residency spots available for graduating doctors to keep pace with increased enrollments at medical schools. Another possibility is to rely on the help of Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners to see more patients. It is likely a combination of both solutions will help ease the burden of increased demand for providers. Diving deeper, studies have shown that primary care done in a team setting, with PAs and NPs working alongside doctors, is more efficient and cost-effective.
However, one of the biggest concerns of the shortage is the uneven distribution of providers, mainly their lack of presence in rural areas. Which is how a third option to face this problem surfaces – the use of technology. While telemedicine is not a replacement for a primary care, providers that can work remotely through telemedicine can help to ease the burden on clinics in rural areas by treating ailments that are appropriate for the scope of telemedicine practice. This allows clinics to focus on patients that require in-person evaluation in their practice and permits other Physicians, PAs, and NPs to use the newest technology to see patients from their personal office or home hundreds of miles away.
Studies have shown that healthcare practiced in a team is beneficial for cost and overall quality of care for patients, why shouldn’t “curing” the issues the future of healthcare faces be a team effort of medical providers, national policy changes, and technologies?