Relative Physician Shortage Given the ‘Longevity Revolution’

A new report by the American Association of Medical Colleges adds another take to the debate about coming physician shortages as America ages.  The longevity revolution is already affecting many parts of our society – housing, transportation, financial and, of course, healthcare.  The older you get, the more you become “normally abnormal” and require medical care.

Studies show that the driver of health care costs is not necessarily the increased price of care, but the fast growing number of people with one or more chronic conditions.

  • 25% of US citizens have one or more of 5 major chronic conditions.
  • The rise in population treated with 7 of top 15 conditions, rather than rising treatment costs per case, accounted for greatest part of spending growth.
  • And obesity continues to climb – which causes hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and hyperlipidemia.

As a result, are already seeing the expansion of practice for non-physicians and greater focus on access points (urgent care, retail clinics etc.) to meet this need for managing both acute and chronic care.  This report suggest those changes might not be enough.   And the AMA itself is now recommending changes in the education process in order to speed it up and bring more students thru the pipeline to meet the needs of the public.  Most post-graduate training program slots are largely under government caps since they are subsidized by federal dollar.   The AAMC report particular points to a surgeon shortage as aging leads to increased incidence of diseases such as cancer that need procedural, not cognitive intervention. The report does predict lower shortfalls of physicians and surgeons that previous estimates due to the growth of other “advanced practice providers” such as nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, but the question remains: will there be a surgeon around when you need one?

Sources:

http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/25/5/w378.full

http://meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/data_files/publications/st354/stat354.shtml

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