Foreign docs could ease U.S. physician shortage
Sometimes serenity is a sinister sensation – bubbling up where and when it shouldn’t, sheathing nerves with a proverbial veil while perils gather at its fringes. It’s this treacherous sense of calm that now cloaks the physician profession even as the furious clouds of occupational shortage cluster ominously above. And with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) charging the air even more, doctors practicing now and those currently being trained are in for a monumental soaker if the climate doesn’t change its course.
Peter J. Landis of the firm Landis Arn & Jaynes, P.A. located in Portland, Maine, hails this atmosphere as “the perfect storm” – a “physician-shortage tsunami” of sorts headed straight for American healthcare as we know it.
“I don’t think I need to preach to the choir to you about the shortage of physicians in this country,” Landis said. “But we have a critical shortage that’s grown increasing over the last ten years and there really is no end in sight, particularly for primary care.”
“We have a shortage of every kind of doctor, except for plastic surgeons and dermatologists,” G. Richard Olds, MD, dean of the new medical school at the University of California, Riverside, told the New York Times. Regarding his region, he added: “We’ll have a 5,000-physician shortage in 10 years, no matter what anybody does.”
Olds’ last assertion packs a startling accuracy for the entire nation – in the case of the physician’s role especially, the only alleviant to shortage is time, a component few have harnessed. Typically, a decade is needed to train a doctor and since medical schools began capping enrollment in 1980, only a select, small group of candidates have been allowed down that 10-year stretch at a time. Thus, while the number of newly trained physicians entering practices each year has remained fairly constant (around 15,500), other factors, such as ACA and a retiring horde of baby boomer doctors, have increased at a far faster rate than there are new physicians to handle it. Like Olds said, there is little else anyone can do now except wait 10 years until the greater number of doctors now permitted to enter med school exit from the other side of the training tunnel.
Yet despite this inevitability of shortage – according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than it will need in 2015, a number that is projected to more than double by 2025 – practice managers and medical staffers are banning together to do whatever they can to make the blow a little less devastating. Physicians in Georgia are employing video dial-a-doc technology to converse with more patients in less time, and more states are starting to fully develop their foreign medical graduate resources to place qualified physicians in areas of need. Within this latter group, Landis finds an abundance of opportunity regarding the preservation of primary care, a vision he discussed during his seminar at the New England Clinical Symposium and Workforce Summit.