Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
According to an article in an American Medical Association publication, experts predict a shortage of over 130,000 physicians by 2025 and 62,900 physicians by 2015! Previous estimates of the impending physician shortage in America were close to half the current ones. This American Medical News article sites projections of the Association of American Medical Colleges (the AAMC), an organization which represents all 134 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools. It also appears that one-third of practicing physicians will retire between 2010 and 2020, but over the same period of time, the Dept of Health and Human Services estimates that the supply of U.S. physicians will only increase by 7%.
This could result in several million Americans scrambling to find a physician in just a few short years. Many doctors will be absolutely overwhelmed and will shut their doors to new patients simply to survive. With greater demands on their time, physicians will be forced to spend less time with many of their patients and wait times for appointments could become astronomical! The implications of this impending shortage are mind-boggling! The entire country is at risk for a virtual meltdown of our health delivery system.
We are all well-aware that the U.S. health care system is already facing perilous times even without a major shortage of physicians.
CNNMoney recently reported that employees with a family of 4 will pay, on average, $8000 for their health care in 2011, including over $4,700 for their share of their health insurance premiums and an additional $3,280 in out-of-pocket costs. This data, obtained from the annual Milliman Medical Index, highlights the unsustainable escalation in health care costs in America. This annual index further reports that employees’ share of health care costs has more than doubled since 2002!
These figures purely represent costs for those who are enrolled in health insurance plans thru their jobs. For many Americans who are seeking employment, the cost of quality health care is absolutely prohibitive, and so, beloved mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers die every day all across this country simply because they lack health insurance. Tens of thousands of Americans are estimated to die each year simply because they have no health insurance.
The escalating cost of health care is unsustainable and unless we do something about it, health care, as we know it, may cease to exist. By WE, I mean ALL Americans, not just politicians, the medical community and special interest groups. Every American should play an active role in saving our health care system before it’s too late. We ALL have a stake in this. Everyone has either been sick, is sick, or will be sick in the future, and we all want and deserve the best health care possible for ourselves and our loved ones, so if the current system implodes, we will ALL be in danger.
Numerous problems plague the U.S. health system, but individual citizens can play a vital role in some of the solutions. Billions of health care dollars are wasted each year thru inefficiencies in the system, poor coordination of care, and unnecessary tests and procedures. Experts agree that successful implementation of electronic health records that will allow sharing of health information has a tremendous potential to slash health care costs. For example, if you go to an emergency room with chest pain which does not seem particularly alarming to the ER doctor, but your EKG is even slightly abnormal, you will likely be admitted UNLESS he can confirm that the EKG abnormality is old and unrelated to your current symptoms by comparing that EKG to a prior one. At 10 pm on a Saturday night your doctor’s office will be closed and no one will be available to fax over old records.
Unless you’ve been to that hospital before and have an EKG on file or you happen to have a copy of a prior EKG with you, will you be admitted to the hospital for further testing, even if the doctor’s suspicion that your chest pain needs further evaluation is low. It’s the safest approach to take, even though it may result in thousands of dollars in unnecessary hospital charges. This type of scenario plays out over and over every day
Unfortunately, the universal acceptance of electronic health records is a long way off, meanwhile, money is pouring down the drain. Of the 168 hrs in a week, your doctor’s office may be open for 40, so having a copy of your own medical records is imperative.
With future visits certain to be much briefer and more difficult to schedule AND health care costs continually rising, everyone should learn how to become an effective partner in his or her health care to optimize the medical care received and minimize health care costs.
Now is the time to protect yourself and your family and prepare for the future of health care in America.
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