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More Physician Temps Needed For Doctor Shortage

The use of temporary physicians is rising, filling in until permanent physicians can be hired amid the ongoing shortage of doctors nationwide, a locum tenens firm has found. The company estimates between 30,000 and 40,000 physicians worked on a locum tenens basis in 2010.

The survey, by Staff Care, polled hospital and medical group managers about their use of locum tenens. Eighty-five percent said their facilities had used temporary physicians sometime in 2010, up from 72 percent in 2009.

Psychiatrists and other behavioral health specialists were the most sought-after specialty (22 percent of all requests), followed by primary care physicians, defined as family physicians, general internists and pediatricians (20 percent) and internal medicine subspecialists (12 percent). Hospitalists were 9 percent.

According to the survey, the primary reason cited by 63 percent of healthcare facilities was to fill a position until a permanent physician could be found. Forty-six percent of healthcare facilities now use locum tenens physicians to fill in for physicians who have left the area, compared to 22 percent in 2009. Fourteen percent use locum tenens doctors to either help meet rising patient demand for medical services or to fill in during peak times, such as flu season. Fifty-three percent use locum tenens physicians to fill in for physicians who are on vacation, ill or for other absences.

Most locum tenens physicians plan to stick with temporary practice in the short-term, the company noted. Sixty percent said they plan to practice on a locum tenens basis for more than three years, 28 percent for one to three years and 12 percent for less than a year.

Freedom trumps pay, the company noted, as 82 percent cited flexibility as a benefit, compared to 16 percent who identified pay as a benefit. Other reasons cited for working as a locum tenens include absence of medical politics (48 percent), travel (44 percent), professional development (21 percent) and searching for permanent practice (20 percent).

The locum tenens option is important to maintaining physician supply, the company concluded, because during a time of physician shortages it allows doctors who might be considering full retirement to remain active in medicine.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

The Future Of American Healthcare

You want to see a doctor? You’re going to have to wait. And I don’t mean like an hour in the office. I mean like 53 days.

It’s not some doomsday story from the future. It’s happening today here in Massachusetts. Massachusetts — the state whose 2006 law was the model for the federal healthcare reform law. Massachusetts — home to some of the world’s best medical centers and doctors. And, as the Boston Globe’s “White Coat Notes” blog reports, Massachusetts — home to doctor shortages and long waits to see a doctor:

When primary care patients do secure an appointment for a non-urgent matter, they have to wait to get in the door, the survey found. The average delay is 29 days to see a family medicine doctor, down from 44 days last year, and 53 days to see an internist, up from 44 days last year.

The report said shortages also exist in dermatology, emergency medicine, general surgery, neurology, orthopedics, psychiatry, urology, and vascular surgery.

But what about costs? If you make sure everyone’s covered, you’ve got the foundation for real cost control, right? Unfortunately, no. Healthcare costs have been booming in Massachusetts:

Costs are rising relentlessly for both families and for the state government. The median annual premium for family plans jumped 10% from 2007 to 2009 to $14,300 — again, that’s a substantial rise on top of an already enormous number. For small businesses, the increase was 12%. In 2006, the state spent around $1 billion on Medicaid, subsidies for medium-to-lower earners, and other health-care programs. Today, the figure is $1.75 billion. The federal government absorbed half of the increase.

So what are the lessons for the future of American healthcare? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

A Big Pay Raise For Internists?

Full-time internists average $191,864 in income, according to one recruiter’s annual salary survey. conducted its survey in the early spring of 2010 among locum tenens and permanently employed physicians. That’s up from $179,958 in 2009, the company reported. Specific breakdowns by gender, years in practice and owner/employee status are here.

That’s a 6.6 percent pay raise. We’re going to do our own salary survey right here. Let us know if you saw such an increase in the past year.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

No Medical School Debt = More Primary Care Doctors?

There’s little question that medical school debt is rising rapidly, affecting the career choice of medical students.

It’s one of the main reasons why the disparity between the number of specialists and primary care doctors is widening. There have been a variety of proposed solutions — most recent of which are medical schools completely subsidizing their tuition. I think that’s a good step forward, but so far has only been limited to a few schools nationwide. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Medical Schools: Why Do Some Do Primary Care Better?

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ACP’s flagship journal, finds that medical schools vary greatly in producing more primary care physicians and getting them into underserved communities.

- “Public schools graduate higher proportions of primary care physicians” than private schools.

- “The 3 historically black colleges and universities with medical schools (Morehouse College, Meharry Medical College, and Howard University) score at the top” in training primary care physicians who then go on to practice in underserved communities. (Click here for an interview with two recent graduates of historically black colleges and with Wayne Riley, MD, FACP, who is the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and a regent of the American College of Physicians.)

- “The level of NIH support that medical schools received was inversely associated with their output of primary care physicians and physicians practicing in underserved areas.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Latest Interviews

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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