The field of medicine in America is always a challenging one, with some obstacle, concern or controversy that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately for the doctors and nurse practitioners of the coming decades, there is a very large, long term problem on the horizon that is going to create a lot of problems.
The big issue over the next few years is not one, but TWO pressing issues. The first is that demand for medical services is on the increase, and not because more people are getting sick. On the contrary, the problem is that more people are now choosing to visit hospitals and clinics for medical attention.
This is a result of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, and is working as intended. Of course, it’s a highly desirable goal to have more people actually able to get medical attention when they require it, so it’s difficult to criticize the well-meaning intention of the act. But as all medical practitioners know, there’s still a problem of math, specifically the business principles of supply and demand. In the case of medicine, especially vital services, not cosmetic treatments, there is a definite gap in the available supply of people able to practice medicine versus the rapidly rising number of people that demand the service.
The other long term problem is also a difficult issue of math. There are a few generations of practicing doctors that are nearing the point of well-deserved retirement. There may not be enough new blood in the form medical degree graduates to replenish the supply. Studies in Michigan, for example, indicate that in less than 10 years, by 2025, the state will have 4000 fewer medical practitioners to rely on. This is especially troubling for developed countries that have growing senior populations that require comprehensive medical care. We see this already in countries like Japan, where the ratio of young to elderly is tipping towards the elderly as fewer people have children due to economic concerns.
In other words, the next several years are looking at a situation where not only will demand for medical service continue to rise, but supply of available medical providers is dwindling.
Reinforcing The Medical Infrastructure
There are a few things that America can do in order to help alleviate this problem and try not to overwhelm the medical field. Incorporate emerging technologies such as online and video conferencing for remote or tele-medical consultations would cut down on visits to the clinic or hospital. This would be especially useful for people that are coming in strictly to ask a question or voice concerns, rather than requiring an actual examination or diagnosis.
The other assist is something that is already happening right now; the use of medical scribes, such as the ones that we at ProScribe make available to medical facilities. The use of a professional medical scribe can dramatically cut down on operation time in many key areas. Medical practitioners can spend more time focusing on the patient, and thus have shorter consultations. This means more patients can be seen in a day. Perhaps most important of all, however, the time consuming but vital activity of making accurate EHR entries is handled diligently with more detail. And it’s done without the doctor or nurse practitioner needing to take more time during a consultation, or after hours, thus letting them maintain a more regular schedule.
All of this means that not only are patients treated, but the medical practitioners are taken care of as well. But we need to continue our efforts to improve the support of the medical field. Adequate medical service is not something that should ever be taken lightly.