According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, if training and graduation rates don’t change, the United States could be short 130,000 doctors by 2025. And this is before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) adds some 32 million lives to our panels.
While the pundits have grappled over the merits of ACA, little to no attention has been drawn to those charged with providing the services detailed by this new law. There’s no practical way that this physician shortfall can be met without significant change to our medical education infrastructure.
I suspect that over the coming generation, patient care will fall increasingly on the shoulders of non-physician clinical providers. And with the sudden demand for basic health care services, the scope of practice of professionals such as nurse practitioners will increase. I suspect that in this changing environment patients will play an increasing role in monitoring themselves. AI and ambient monitoring will likely play an emerging role in patient care.
Health care is a right, not a privilege. Consequently, patients deserve a system conceived and designed in a way that meets their needs. While doctors aren’t the only folks who can meet a patient’s needs, considering their role should probably be on the government’s short list when planning health policy. Providing insurance for 32 million is very different from providing for 32 million.
All of this reflects the changing relevance of the American physician.