Can Telemedicine Help Reduce Doctors' Shortage Problems?
Can Telemedicine Help Reduce Doctors' Shortage Problems? Lack of a doctor? Yes, that is prevalent now in many areas of the United States, such as Texas and will be a significant problem in the coming years. In 2006, sixty percent of the population believed that there was already a shortage of doctors and sixty-six percent agreed the problem would worsen over the next ten years.
At present, the United States has middle range doctors to a lower population level compared to many other countries. Korea, for example, has the lowest doctors to a population level and Greece has the highest.
Although there are many sources of information detailing the causes and cures for this problem, most of us remain unaware of the impact of this problem on us as consumers of health care services.
A fifth of the country's population lives in areas that have been designated as areas lacking doctors. Lack of access to doctors has a devastating effect on those who live in this area. Many who cannot get a doctor's visit on time with a significantly increased waiting time correlate directly with the few doctors who are already burdening patients.
There are also fewer opportunities to explore preventive measures so that when patients show themselves the results tend to be worse. In addition, many rural community hospitals have to close citing financial problems thereby exacerbating the scope of the problem.
The foresight is a short view?
Yes indeed, adding to the growing shortcomings, the American Medical Association and other medical groups in the 1990s predicted that there would be a surplus of doctors. This prediction surprisingly resulted in many medical colleges instituting registration to the extent that there was no increase in the number of students enrolled from 1980 to 2005. While the size of our country's population has increased by almost a third in size.
We are getting older in the whole nation.
Because the number of geriatric populations will multiply by 2030, the special field of medicine serving this population will feel the greatest impact of all. This targeted field of practice will show the greatest shortages as high as twenty-five percent per 100,000 patients by 2020.
Why? Statistically, groups between the ages of 65 and 80 consume more health care services than other age groups. In fact, they utilize medical services tripling the level of younger people. In addition, doctor's office calls showed a marked improvement for those over the age of sixty-five and for one study the actual visit increased by 25% between the ages of 55 to 65 years and then an additional 25%, totaling 50% after the age of 75. An increase in patient visits and a decrease in specific practices may one day be known as the perfect storm in the medical community.
Doctors are also not immune to aging.
While baby boomers are doing a great job in supplying the treatment population, there are currently more than 250,000 doctors who are currently over 55 years old. Because this segment of the baby boomer population is starting to retire, this will add dramatically to the shortage of doctors, creating an alarming level of friction.
Older primary care doctors are currently working under increasing patient burdens because younger doctors are reluctant to become low-paid general practitioners. Many consider leaving treatment altogether and no longer recommend the practice of Primary Care to younger colleagues.
As a medical career, the practice of primary care promises to come complete with tiring working hours, burdensome patient burdens and almost no family time resulting in benefits being few and far between. Primary care doctors, at the current level of friction, may become an extinct species for the next twenty years.
Americans, even though they do not consciously consider it to be related to the lack of a doctor who is actually getting more and more days by having to wait for months to see a doctor or have to go to the Emergency Room on nights and weekends or during holidays just to get help with a lot of pretty minor problems. Statistics state that 70% of ER visits are actually not needed at all.
Doctor extenders are on the rise.
In response to this growing problem, many services that are considered to be an extension of doctors such as the nursing profession and physician assistants are rapidly increasing services that can add to the rapidly increasing physician Primary Care deficit.
Telemedicine is another answer that is worth coming to the forefront.
The emerging technology in all fields of medicine is the insertion of stable telemedicine which makes sense for doctors and patients. Telemedicine limits travel time and costs for medical providers and patients by utilizing technology such as telephone, fax, and the internet.
Their use can dramatically increase the diagnostic time when using video conferencing systems in provider consultations and patient interviews. The visual aspect of the service can allow doctors to observe conditions, link symptoms and provide diagnoses without having to travel to locations or remote countries.
As in the internal telemedicine medical industry institutions in all fields of practice, they are now also implementing online medical services to consumers via the internet. These pioneers help consumers with medical questions, health care and often even prescriptions for treatment without the consumer having to set foot in a doctor's office at all. Voila! Soon we will get instant satisfaction and comfort of medical care by clicking the mouse!
The medical community continues to look for ways to influence the shortage of doctors and further exploration and improvement of telemedicine as it relates to direct interactions with patients is very important.
Telemedicine has even expanded the scope of physician practices to give physicians broader access to patients who are not in the area of their private practice. Although they must pass a thorough examination, even retired doctors now have the choice to continue practicing medicine in whatever capacity they choose without having to have a physical office or malpractice insurance.
"Telemedicine is a win-win for both prospective patients and health care and I believe it will quickly become the way of choice for medical assistance in the not too distant future."