Advanced Analytics May Help Determine When You Can See A Doctor

Under a headline “Doctor Shortage Could Cause Health Care Crash”, ABC News on Wednesday pointed out what has been known for a long time, there is an impending shortage of primary care (family) doctors in the United States.  As the ABC article notes, that shortage is likely to be aggravated by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

What is known is that no one, if anyone, goes without some form of medical care in the U.S.  Those individuals who have lacked healthcare insurance go to hospital emergency rooms where they usually are treated for free.  The hospital and paying patients absorb the losses through higher insurance premiums.  However, under Obamacare another 38 million Americans are expected to have some form of medical insurance.  The problem with that, as the ABC article points out, is that there just won’t be enough primary care physicians to go around if that 38 million new insurance holders seek to go to a family doctor instead of an emergency room.

There are many elements to the growing problem.  Family doctors don’t get the respect or the income of specialists.  Medical college students are opting for specialties (a drop from 5,746 choosing family care in 2002 to 4,210 in 2007), medical schools are hard to get into and very selective, etc.  “It’s pretty tough to convince medical students to go into primary care,” said Dr. Lee Green, chair of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta.  In Massachusetts, which has an earlier version of Obamacare, access to primary care physicians already is difficult

What does this have to do with advanced analytics?  Well, it is going to become increasingly critical that statistical disciplines be applied to healthcare.  There are not likely to be more primary care doctors, but fewer.  Would it not then be a good idea to be able to analytically determine with much more precision which patients need faster attention, which can wait, and the likely outcomes in their various options?  England has faced this problem for many years now and has lengthy waiting lists for health care, however, as far as I know, people aren’t dying in droves from lack of medical attention.

Regardless of whether you approve of Obamacare or not, it is obvious that it is going to have a profound affect on healthcare in the U.S.  Although more people will be covered, the resources to treat them are going to be strained, as in England.  Advanced analytics are going to be necessary to ensure that the most critical problems are addressed first and those that can wait do so.  That seems to be the only option available.

(Warren B. Causey)

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One Comment

  1. Tressa says:

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