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*
Some states are finding it tough to retain physicians. Take Virginia for instance:
A recent study found Virginia retains only 35 percent of its medical school graduates and ranks 31st among other states in retaining doctors.
In 2008, Virginia spent more than $50 million from the general fund to support medical education and had nearly 600 new physicians graduate from Virginia’s four medical schools.
Despite this, Virginia still struggles to retain medical graduates, with less than 25 percent of Virginia’s physicians graduating from medical schools in the Commonwealth.
Some feel incentives might work:
Dr. Greenawald says other states including North Carolina have incentives to keep medical students in state. He hopes Virginia considers following suit. Dr. Greenawald also said the over burden of paperwork and insurance company oversight have taken doctors away from what they love doing which is providing care to patients. He said that’s prompted many doctors to retire early.
I’m not so sure. Until more medical students feel primary care is worth the effort, the mass exodus to specialties (and the out-of-state training that is often required) will continue.
-WesMusings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.
*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (our government’s name for healthcare reform) may make our already crowded emergency rooms swarm with more patients.
A new study from Health Affairs shows that more than a quarter of patients who currently visit emergency departments in the U.S. are there for routine care and not an emergency. New complaints like stomach pain, skin rashes, fever, chest pain, cough or for a flare up of a chronic condition should not be treated in emergency rooms. They are best worked up and treated by an internist or family physician, preferably one who knows the patient. So why are these patients waiting for hours and spending up to 10 times as much money for emergency department care? Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*
As a primary care physician, I am becoming painfully aware of how hard it is to be good –- I mean really good — at what we do today. I would prefer to believe that it has always been so, yet I do not believe that our predecessors in the medical profession found it nearly as difficult to excel in their time as we do now.
With all of the technological and medical advances, you might ask how I could believe this to be true. Too, you might consider it pessimistic or even crazy to suggest that physicians 20, 30, or 100 years ago found it easier to practice medicine well in their time.
You could counter with numerous or obvious examples such as antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, robotic surgical procedures, or even our wondrous ability to peer inside the human body without cutting it open. You also would be correct to point out that the technological advancements of the 20th century opened the way for the medical profession to become a real science thus giving me and my colleagues the chance and knowledge to make a real difference in our patients’ lives today. Read more »