How Long Are You Waiting To See Your Physician?
Concierge medicine is a growing field, and it’s not hard to see why. According to an article released from the New England Journal of Medicine, the expansion of Medicaid eligibility, part of the Health Care Reform Act, will create big problems for primary care. The primary care shortage has been a topic of discussion between both physicians who are spending more time in the office and patients who are spending more time waiting, and the shortage is only growing.
“For many years, we’ve been aware that there is a maldistribution of primary care practitioners across the nation,” said Lynn Goldman, MD, MPH, dean of the George Washington University School of Public Health Services, which performed the study. “National health reform really moves this issue to the forefront.”
According to Nurse.com, the Journal of Medicine study found especially weak primary care infrastructure, given the demands of Medicaid expansion, in eight states: Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Nevada, North Carolina and Kentucky. Another 17 states could face substantial challenges, according to the researchers.
“Federal and state officials will need to collaborate with physicians and other clinicians to bolster primary care capacity when the insurance expansions begin just three years from now,” said lead author Leighton Ku, PhD, MPH, professor of health policy at George Washington. “The challenges are greater in Southern and Midwestern states because insurance coverage will grow more in those states but they have fewer practitioners ready to provide care.”
Cities across the nation are currently experiencing physician shortages, prior to the Health Care Act to taking affect. Take New York, for example, where a new report released by HANYS’ shows persistent physician shortages, with a projected need for 1,000 physicians reported by 74% of hospitals outside of New York City.
According to HANYS.org, the survey found:
- 69% of responding hospitals experienced times when their emergency department was not covered for certain specialty services, and patients were forced to travel to other hospitals, often long distances, to receive needed care, an increase of 50% from the previous year;
- 33% have had to reduce and/or eliminate specialty services at their hospitals because they are unable to recruit physicians; and
- nearly 1,600 physicians retired or left their communities in 2009
In addition to the 1,600 retired physicians in 2009, New York ranks second in the nation for number of physicians over the age of 60, which will translate into a very high retirement number for 2010 as well. And this trend is not just affecting New York. According to the Wall Street Journal, almost a third of doctors in this country – about 250,000 – are over the age of 55. By 2020 they plan on retiring.
Time Magazine took on the topic of physician shortages and doctor wait times recently by addressing one question, “Why did you come to the ER today?” According to Time.com, this question — emphasizing today is common practice in emergency departments — helps us figure out how urgent a patient’s illness might be. But it’s a loaded question. Rephrased, it could easily mean, “Do you really believe you are seriously ill, or is it just that you couldn’t wait to see a regular doctor?”
Yet while primary care physicians are spending less time with each patient, from an average of 8 minutes per patient to a future estimated average of 6 minutes with each patient, concierge physicians are spending between 31 to 45 minutes with each patient (according to a ConciergeMedicineToday.com poll).
“The way I used to see patients, I always had one hand on the door, ready to go to the next room,” a concierge physician recently told ConciergeMedicineToday.com. “I caught myself saying, ‘This is not the way to take care of patients.'”
With an extra half-an-hour to spend caring and listening to each patient, concierge physicians take preventative medicine to the next level by identifying health risks early.
With offices in Los Angeles, California and Richmond, Virginia, SignatureMD (signaturemd.com) is one of the nation’s largest firms providing initial conversion and ongoing support services to concierge medicine physicians. SignatureMD currently partners with over 200 affiliated primary care physicians and specialists across 35 states, and its network is rapidly expanding.