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Op-ed presents possible solutions to doctor shortage
08.21.2012As it takes about 10 years for a med school freshman to become a full-fledged doctor, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that by 2020, the nation will be 90,000 doctors short of what would be necessary for everyone to receive care. Though no obvious solution to the problem exists, a few commentators have published their two cents on the issue.
In an opinion article published in the Washington D.C.-based Atlantic magazine, a Columbia University medical student advocates for an increase in government incentives and changes to some federal programs to help reverse the shortage of primary care physician recruitment.
Ben Gallagher notes that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will grant 30 million currently uninsured Americans access to healthcare, and he cites a July New York Times article examining the doctor shortage issue. He goes on to explain why financial factors lead many debt-saddled medical students to enter specialized fields such as dermatology and plastic surgery, instead of primary care. Moreover, taxpayers are already paying quite a bit of money into medical school tuition subsidies and onsite hospital training, yet the doctors have no specific post-graduation obligations in terms of where and what to practice.
The author notes that already-existing debt forgiveness incentives for young physicians entering into primary care practice will be expanded under the ACA, but "these programs are funded by charging taxpayers more, not by paying specialists less. Unless that changes, it will always be more profitable to become a dermatologist than a general interest [doctor]." Gallagher recommends revamping how Medicare and Medicaid funds are distributed to certain specialists.
Milwaukee Business News also called for the altering of primary care physician and specialist pay scales, and offered nine other suggested partial solutions for the doctor shortage. Some of their ideas have been presented by other experts. The news source's list also includes ideas like increasing the allocation of tasks to nurses and physician assistants, reforming malpractice laws, finding ways to reduce Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and "create financial incentives for people to stay healthy and better manage chronic healthcare conditions." The last one sounds a lot like a healthcare wellness program for the whole country.
In addition, the news source recommends increased use of telemedicine, citing research that shows that remote monitoring of patients' health could prevent a notable number of emergency room visits, and deaths.
Categories: Physician Recruitment
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