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How the Doctor Shortage is Affecting Patients
Adaptive Medical Partners | Uncategorized
A shortage of physician supply poses many problems for patients. It is something worth studying because the problem is not about to go away. And there is a greater demand for physicians than the healthcare training system can provide.
The Association of American Medical Colleges says that there will be a physician shortage numbering between 40,800 and 104,900 by 2030. Primary care physicians make up the bulk of the shortfall, to the tune of 8,700 to 43,000 doctors. The number for surgeons stands at between 19,800 to 29,000 doctors.
The doctor shortage has multiple causes
Elderly patients require more care from physicians than younger ones, so an aging population puts more demand on the system. The AAMC study also notes that patients who are older need specialty services, which are also facing severe shortages.
On the other side of the equation, physicians are aging, too, with many slated for retirement. The AAMC says more than a third of active physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade. Medical schools are increasing enrollment, but residency training opportunities have not kept pace, bottlenecking physicians before they can get into the workforce.
The impact on patients
A shortfall in doctor numbers has major consequences for patients. The lack of a primary care physician means they do not have a ‘home base’ to turn to when they need healthcare. Ideally, a patient’s first point of contact for non-urgent health concerns should be their primary care physician. The ‘family doctor’ will also act as the gateway for the referral to specialists whenever necessary.
Without someone who can clearly and quickly understand the patient’s medical history and plan for future needs, patients end up bouncing from specialist to specialist, clogging emergency rooms, or ignoring health issues because they do not have a family doctor. Poor health outcomes arise from these situations, adding to the problem as patients’ health deteriorates.
Lower quality care is a further consequence of a doctor shortage. Patients have less time with their doctors, and a harder time getting to the right specialists. Wait times exacerbate medical problems, and routine maintenance falls by the wayside, with short appointments or challenges even getting an appointment in the first place.
Physicians feel it, too
The doctor shortage also impacts physicians. Those who are in the healthcare system have to work even harder to make up for the disparity between supply and demand. Physicians can quickly become overworked and stressed.
A burnt-out physician may choose to dial back his or her work in the name of self-preservation.
Overworked and overstressed doctors reduce hours, close practices, or leave the profession, adding to the shortage.
Recruitment during a physician shortage
Recruitment, which can already be a challenge, becomes even more perilous in the face of a doctor shortage. When there are so few physicians to go around, how can you encourage someone to choose your practice over another? Once you have a physician in place, how do you handle retention?
When looking for someone to fill a post, clearly defining the role in question is paramount for success. Identifying your ideal candidate, rather than trying to squeeze someone into your practice to fill the spot, may take longer but will be more fruitful in the long run. Even in the middle of a shortage, you need a physician with the right training, experience, history, and interests.
Making the job appealing means being positive about your local community and the practice itself. Careful recruitment involves creating a comprehensive overview of what physicians can expect from you, particularly those things which they will not be able to find elsewhere. From tailoring community visits to showcasing a favorite hobby and involving a physician’s entire family in the recruitment process: the job offer has to capture the full experience.
This approach has several benefits, but the principal advantage is that it is beneficial for retention. When you show a potential hire all that a job entails and offer as much assistance and information as possible along the way, there are no surprises.
A physician who fully understands their new role is less likely to abandon it in the future. Support through onboarding is as important as the original recruitment plan. A compensation guarantee, signing bonus, or other financial benefits can be an attractive part of an employment offer for a recruit.
Consider what your practice can afford, and what the long-term payoff will be. If your location is less than ideal for any reason, you may need to bump up compensation to recruit someone who will stay.
The doctor shortage is a serious concern for physicians, patients, and healthcare facilities. However, with help from a strong recruiting firm, you can still provide high-quality care. Careful and efficient recruitment of physicians who are an ideal fit for your community and practice prevents compromising patient care down the line.
Adaptive Medical Partners will help you get the best physicians for your practice from the available physician pool, now and in the future.