In the world of medicine, this is a topic that’s often brought up in clinics, over lunches, and even in professional meetings. The population of America is rapidly aging – and many agencies have predicted that there will be a significant shortage of physicians in the near future. The AAMC, for example, has predicted that by 2025, there will be a shortfall of between 46,000 and 90,000 doctors, due to the needs of the aging Baby Boomers and the rising costs of medical education. All of which begs the question: is the physician shortage real?

The Physician Shortage is Real but it’s Not the Whole Story

The numbers behind the physician shortage are quite staggering. We have fewer practicing physicians per 1,000 people than most highly-ranked OECD countriesWe have around 2.56 doctors per 1,000 people – that puts us behind countries like Austria (4.99) and Switzerland (4.04). We also rank near the bottom when it comes to the number of newly-graduated doctors.

This would seem to imply that we already do not have enough physicians for our population. It would also seem that there are not enough new doctors to replace currently operating physicians. The U.S. ranks 30th out of 35 when it comes to the total number of yearly medical graduates. So, is the physician shortage real? Yes, but these numbers don’t tell the whole story. The problem with our system is not just that we don’t have enough doctors – it’s that it’s inefficient.

Hospitals Must Become More Efficient to Keep up With an Aging Population

A study by the Institute of Medicine, done in 2014, concluded that while there may be shortages in some physician specialties, there is no overall lack of doctors – at least, not on a scale that will affect public health. What the study points out as the biggest issue with our system is that it’s inefficient. We focus too heavily on physicians, and not on mid-level practitioners such as physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners.

In addition, slow adoption of medical technology and an outdated billing and insurance system take their toll on the effectiveness of medical care delivery in the United States. This new research argues that we have all of the tools required to address this crisis – as long as we can take advantage of new pharmaceutical drugs, telehealth services, and advanced technology that reduces the burdens on physicians and clinicians.

We Need More Doctors and a More Efficient Healthcare System

As you can see, the physician shortage is real, but it’s just part of the puzzle. To deal with the aging American population, we need more physicians. We also need to make better use of the medical systems and staff that we already have in place. By streamlining the medical care process with mid-level practitioners and the use of advanced technology like EHRs and digital billing, we will be able to deal with this increase in demand and treat our aging population with the care and dignity that they deserve.

Now that you know the answer to the question “is the physician shortage real,” it’s time to take action. Contact us today for a free billing assessment and learn how to enter the future of healthcare.

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