Doctor Drought

Is a Physician Shortage Leaving Your Patients High & Dry?

Physicians are busier than ever. Despite all best efforts by medical practices, frustrated patients around the country sit in waiting rooms… waiting… and waiting. After what seems to be an eternity, they’re relieved to have their name called, only to see a physician who is behind schedule and struggling to keep up. This is an all-too-common scenario and the symptom of a growing problem: physician shortages.

Healthcare providers of all specialties are experiencing severely off-balance patient to physician ratios. As a result, many practices are unable to accept new patients – and the patients they can see are becoming increasingly dissatisfied from longer wait times and shorter one-on-one time with their doctors. The demand for physicians is simply much greater than the supply.

When it comes to the doctor drought, we have good news and we have bad news.

First, The Bad News.

Medical practice staffing issues for full-time physicians are not going to improve in the foreseeable future. Twenty-four states have released reports projecting physician shortages, and 21 medical specialty societies have released reports projecting shortages in their fields. A recent study by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates a shortfall of more than 121,000 physicians by 2030. What’s more alarming is this assessment is even higher than AAMC’s 2030 projections that were published last year.

“This year’s analysis reinforces the serious threat posed by a real and significant doctor shortage,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD. “With the additional demand from a population that will not only continue to grow but also age considerably over the next 12 years, we must start training more doctors now to meet the needs of our patients in the future.”

Here are the projected numbers:

For primary care, the estimated shortage will be between 8,700 and 43,100 physicians by 2030.

Non-primary care specialties are expected to experience a shortfall of between 33,500 and 61,800 physicians.

The supply of surgeons is projected to have little growth by 2030, but projected demand is expected to increase, resulting in a shortage of between 19,800 and 29,000 surgeons by 2030.

For other specialties, such as emergency medicine, anesthesiology, radiology, neurology, and psychiatry, the projected shortage is between 18,600 and 31,800 physicians by 2030.

There are a number of reasons contributing to the shortage. First are the demographics – the population is growing and expected to increase 12 percent by 2030. Then there are the care providers – the AAMC expects nearly 1/3 of active baby boomer-aged physicians to retire within the next 10 years, and other physicians are burning out due to technology and regulatory burdens.

A significant factor is the patient population. Today’s seniors live longer, have more active lifestyles and require more care. At the same time, medical advances have increased the number of people able to live with multiple chronic illnesses. “There is going to be a significant workforce shortage under all of the likely projections. We see that, quite frankly, only getting worse as the population ages,” said Janis M. Orlowski, MD, AAMC Chief Health Care Officer.

You can view the full report here: https://aamc-black.global.ssl.fastly.net/production/media/filer_public/bc/a9/bca9725e-3507-4e35-87e3-d71a68717d06/aamc_2018_workforce_projections_update_april_11_2018.pdf

Now The Good News… There Is A Cure.

Today more than ever before, healthcare employers are hiring locum tenens physicians and practitioners to compensate for long- and short-term staffing deficiencies. That’s because locum tenens is the easy and efficient solution to fill the gap with trusted, highly qualified professionals who go through the same onboarding process as permanent staff hires to ensure cohesion on the team.

Other benefits of maintaining full doctor coverage include the ability to stay in compliance with managed care and other third-party agreements, experience fewer scheduling conflicts, and lighten the load on your administrative staff along the way.

Using locum tenens also leads to better rates of physician retention, avoiding burnout and other problems related to overwork, as locum tenens providers give existing staff the freedom of flexibility to be able to take those treasured days off for things like vacations or family leave. This coveted schedule flexibility is vital to a healthy work/life balance.

For patients, having a locum tenens provider has a direct impact on visit satisfaction and the quality of care they receive.

If your practice is facing long wait times, physician burnout and new patient rejection due to physician shortages, Integrity Locums can help. Our team specializes in matching medical professionals with healthcare organizations that are experiencing staff deficiencies. At Integrity Locums, we don’t just place physicians to fill missing spots. We’re focused on the unique needs of both your practice and your patients. Learn how to get started today at ihcl.com.