I have been saying to whoever will listen to me (which is nobody) for years now that the way we treat health care a decade from now will be vastly different than the way we treat health care now. One of the points that I rant about often is the upcoming “doctor shortage”. Now I have a study to point to that shows that what I have been saying is true; there is no doctor shortage.
The main problem with studies claiming that there is a doctor shortage is that they take the current health care system as a baseline and extrapolate it to the future. This is almost assuredly a false model. The baseline, in this case, being one doctor, one practice. That has been changing rapidly, though.
Even now, we’re approaching three doctors, one practice. Instead of having one doctor that always sees you, you end up with one of the three doctors whichever happens to be available. There are great logistical savings with this model. The amount of patients that can be seen rises dramatically. The amount of time sitting in a paper gown waiting for a doctor to show up decreases dramatically too.
But that’s not the only advance that is around the corner. We are also becoming more dependent on nurses for everyday health care needs. If we assume that, in the future, 20% of our needs will be met by nurses, the doctor shortage completely disappears. I like this number because it’s conservative. I could easily see 40% or even 50% of our health care needs being provided by nurses in the future.
As pointed out in the article by someone who has a vested interest in declaring a doctor shortage, there is still the issue of specialists. I don’t know enough about this to give an educated answer. I’m guessing, though, that specializations like neurosurgery will be quickly taken over by robots. Advances in remote surgery are already ready for prime time so replacing the doctor completely seems the next logical step. I, for one, would feel much safer with a precision robot rooting around in my brain than a human that may be a little jittery because they had too much caffeine.