Saul Marquez, Host at Outcomes Rocket Podcast

America’s Healthcare Crisis: Shortage of Primary Care Providers

Saturday June 15th 2019

America’s Healthcare Crisis: Shortage of Primary Care Providers

Doctor shortage expected to worsen

A month ago, The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported that the U.S. will see a dearth of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032. This projected deficiency is similar to past projections, though the number varies from less than 50,000 to more than 100,000.

Regardless of the number, one thing is clear. One of the most crucial issues the U.S. health care space is facing is doctor shortage, and it will continue to worsen over time.

This shortfall impacts most of the country. Without a sufficient number of physicians, patients may receive delayed medical attention, there will be longer waiting times, and more patients will likely seek assistance through non-care physician providers.

Physicians working with larger sets of patients will continue to be stressed, overworked and burned out, worsening the job satisfaction rates in the field. What will this do to the already rising number of suicides amongst physicians?

This drastic situation may not be so visible in large cities as they usually have the highest concentration of healthcare professionals.

It’s another story in rural areas and economically marginalized communities. When a physician or nurse retires or moves out of the area, it can drastically affect the operation of the healthcare facility. This is because there are fewer healthcare professionals in rural areas and low-income communities so a shortage leaves the healthcare facilities slightly derailed.

According to the Becker’s Hospital Review, several hospitals have already closed, and most of these closures are located in the South. Texas is reported to have the highest hospital closure number at 14, followed by Tennessee at 8, Georgia at 6, then Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina at 5. The hospitals closed between Jan 2010 and Jan 2018.

The cause of physician shortage

One of the major causes of the diminishing number of doctors is our doctors are getting older.

Healthcareweekly.com reported that as of last year(2018) one in three practicing physicians in the U.S. is over the age of 65 and close to retirement. Many of our doctors belong to the baby-boomer generation and they are now at their retirement age.

Another reason is the burgeoning population. By 2030, the country’s population is expected to grow to 359.4 million.

This would not be an issue if there is a sufficient number of young doctors graduating from medical schools. Unfortunately, medical schools are churning up graduates at an anemic rate, which creates a huge gap between the burgeoning need of Americans and the limited number of healthcare providers.

In the coming years, the number of elderly Americans will double, and they will require medical care.

A viable solution

The days of throwing people at a problem are over. In today’s market, we must take advantage of technology and merge into our tech-enabled culture to solve problems. One of the companies making a significant contribution to the physician shortage challenge is 98poin6. The Seattle based high-tech and high-touch firm led by some of the industries’ brightest practitioners and thought leaders are making it easier for consumers to receive care as well as for providers to give care. To narrow the gap and provide easy access to healthcare, and shorten the waiting time in the doctor’s office, 98point6 introduced its primary solution – a messaging-based platform that provides primary care anywhere, anytime.

When I asked Brad Younggren, 98point6 Chief Medical Officer, about a hot topic that needs to be on health leaders agenda and how his team is taking care of it, he replied “I think that for me the hot topic right now is figuring out ways to leverage technology to address the physician experience or more to the point, physician burnout. We’ve seen lots of solutions which really have had a net negative effect on the physician experience. And we’re seeing enormous rates physician burnout and health care and we need to address that by creating technology that supports the physician experience as well as the patient experience.”

From his answer, we can see that 98point6 delivers answers for both the patient and primary care giver’s perspectives.

Brad further explained, “98point6 is delivering on-demand text-based primary care across the entire country, now 50 states plus Washington D.C. To accomplish that goal we approached it quite differently from other traditional analog telemedicine companies. We decided that we wanted the physicians to be intimate members of the team, and so from the ground up we built a system that involves the physicians at every aspect of the company.“

All the physicians you’ll reach or connect to when you’re on the 98point6 platform are employees of the company. Brad is proud of the fact that they don’t use locum tenens physicians to deliver the care you need.

Why hire physicians from the ground up? Brad believes it is important for physicians to be deeply invested in the clinic, to be a part of core positions, and to get into administrative work. According to Brad, this resonates and excites doctors, allowing them to participate and feel like they’re making an immediate impact on both patients and the business.

He stated, “Half of our technologists at the least if not probably more than half of the technology in the organization is focused on the physician facing side of the technology and coming from personal health care where the physician really isn’t the customer. This is a significant change for the physicians and great satisfaction for their experience here at 98point6.” In an era of challenge for physicians, I have seen an increased number take roles at companies making a positive impact on patients and the healthcare system. Perhaps the best way for physicians to make an impact and increase their own satisfaction is no longer climbing the provider “ladder” and taking a look at how their intimate knowledge of the patient relationship can add value to companies solving healthcare problems.

“That itself translates into a fundamental difference around how the care is delivered. The physicians are building the practice, the policies and they’re deeply invested in the 98point6 experience and we think that that is the correct approach to delivering high-quality medical care, at an affordable price with great access. It has never been seen in the market.”

CNBC said 98point6 is building the Amazon Prime of primary health care, and I agree. With 98point6, you get easy, on-hand access to professional healthcare anytime, whether you’re at home in bed, commuting, in the office, etc. This is crucial especially because we live such busy lives and are constantly in a hurry to maximize the use of time. Wouldn’t you like your healthcare visits to be Amazon Primed? I would.

Most importantly, this platform does not just address the patient experience. It also addresses the physician’s experience, especially the physician burnout problem.

Let’s be honest. Long hours of work, stress, and financial concerns regarding billing concerns can take its toll and all these factors have an impact on the quality of care a physician provides.

With 98point6, healthcare consumers get the proper care they need whenever they need it, while also providing a better quality of life for the healthcare providers.

Taking the First Step

The physician shortage problem is a hard one to solve, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. We just have to start. The world is full of companies and patients unwilling to take the first step. I challenged myself to take the first step when I started Outcomes Rocket and have been able to make a difference for leaders in healthcare by sharing their story. What will you do to take the first step toward better healthcare? Taking a focused approach that includes physicians at the core of the solution, while getting feedback from the patient experience through the process is the way to do it. Thanks to 98point6, Americans have a solution they can rely on in any of the 50 states in the U.S. Curious about their solution? Visit their website to learn more and give it a try by signing up. https://www.98point6.com/about/

Written By

Saul Marquez

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