How the Growing Doctor Shortage Will Affect Us
Healthcare2U’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Rodriguez, is featured in a news story with Amanda Hill speaking about how the doctor shortage, which is set to get even worse in the next few years, will affect the US.
News Center Maine: Have you noticed it takes a little longer to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician right now? Or once you’re at that appointment, you feel rushed through it. Dr. John Rodriguez says it’s a problem nationwide, but it’s impacting every community, especially smaller ones.
Dr. Rodriguez: I see a lot of my friends, primary care friends, have called it quits. They’ve either left the scene already, they’re joining the big groups, they’ve left healthcare, or they’re working for insurance companies.
Amanda Hill: But why are primary care physicians leaving? Dr. John Rodriguez is the Chief Medical Officer of a direct primary care office. Essentially, it’s a practice that has either a membership fee or takes direct payment from the patient, cutting out the need for an insurance company. While it’s not an affordable option for everyone, Dr. Rodriguez says it does afford a more intimate relationship with patients and cuts down on overwhelming paperwork, which has become two reasons for doctor burnout.
Dr. Rodriguez: Your visits now are down to seven minutes on average. I mean, that’s fine if it’s a head cold, but if you’re dealing with three or four medical problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, that’s impossible to keep up with that in proper form.
Amanda Hill: Is there a concern for you- a misdiagnosis or something that’s missed in the appointment?
Dr. Rodriguez: Absolutely. And I’ve seen it. Sometimes I’m a second opinion doctor, so I’ll see patients from other offices, and as well-intended as they were, their diagnosis was off, and we come up with a different diagnosis. And again, I see it- they were in a hurry, the patient had a few complaints, and they didn’t think they were important, but they were.
Amanda Hill: The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that in 2034, the US will have shortages of between nearly 18,000 and 48,000 primary care physicians. That’s in just the next decade.
Dr. Rodriguez: I would bet that most of your listeners have probably experienced that already.
Amanda Hill: It’s not a new issue. About five years ago, we met Dr. Bill Med, who worked well beyond his retirement years in the town of Norway because he couldn’t find a replacement. Do you worry about what will happen to them when you leave?
Dr. Bill Med: Oh, yeah. That’s probably the main thing that’s continuing my work.
Amanda Hill: But there are changes being made. Dr. Med started working with Maine Health on a program to recruit more doctors to rural parts of the state. The question remains whether those changes are happening quickly enough.
Dr. Rodriguez: It’s going to get worse. And really, the issue is, you need the quarterback. You need someone who knows the healthcare system and how to maneuver through that. And if you don’t have that, it’s chaos.
Amanda Hill: So, some advice: if you’re losing your primary care physician, it’s worth asking the practice or the physician themselves if they’d refer you to someone else. We’ve also shared a link on our website with a list of direct primary care physicians in Maine if that is something you’re interested in.
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