Physician Shortage Gives Rise to Preferred Access Solutions
According to the AAMC, the United States is expected to face a shortage of 124,000-159,000 physicians by 2025. This does not include another 25% projected shortfall should policies such as universal healthcare coverage pass through congress.
The growth of the U.S. population age group 65+ through 2025 is a staggering 4 or 5 times the growth of the number of physicians during the same time period.
According to the AAMC the number of physicians selecting family medicine careers has dropped 27% between 2002 and 2007. General surgeons also dropped nearly 26% since 1981.
Physicians will become increasingly overloaded due to this shortage along with lower insurance reimbursement rates; patients will see longer and longer wait times for appointments and office visits.
Emergency room average wait times are on the rise as well mainly due to an increased number of ER visits. Average ER wait times have been estimated between 1-4 hours. Many Americans who have lost their jobs or do not have health insurance are now using the ER as their means of primary care. Although the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) reduces the COBRA premium in some cases. After losing her job with a pharmaceutical company, a pharmaceutical representative saw her health insurance premiums decrease from $241.77 as an employee to $84.62, a substantial decrease. There are restrictions on who qualifies and the length of time they are valid, so consult with your human resources manager or individual healthcare insurance representative for more details
An immediate solution which has seen a major rise since 2005 is concierge medicine. Physicians charge an annual fee for preferred access. This creates more revenue to meet operational costs for the physician and a decrease in the number of patients they need to see on a daily basis. Patients opting in to the preferred access solution pay the annual fee and receive same or next business day appointments and expedited office visits. Patients who opt out, depending on the type of concierge practice will either have the option to stay with the doctor (hybrid medical concierge) or will have to leave their doctor (traditional medical concierge model).
A substantial number of physician practices will be integrating either of these medical concierge models as a solution. There has already been a rise from 500 concierge (some type of fee for service outside of insurance) type practices in 2005 to 5000 currently according to the Society for Innovative Medical Practice Design.