AMA study reveals specialty docs hurting health care system

Like all useful research studies, the information collected sheds light on some past phenomena or circumstance helping us, in turn, better understand the present and maybe even what the future might portend.

And so it is with a recent American Medical Association study linked (subscription required) here

For the last 20-plus years, significant numbers of medical students have opted for specialty training over the more general primary care education, then, as a result, obviously, becoming specialists of varying types after graduation from medical school.

The study reveals that the country’s medical students “continue to shun” primary care for higher–paying specialties “setting the stage for a shortage of doctors as the population ages and health care expands.” From one group of residents — those choosing not to pursue careers in surgery or pediatrics — 22 percent expected to go into internal medicine or primary care with the rest setting their sights on fields like cardiology or dermatology, the study revealed.

“About 20 to 25 percent of students have chosen primary care in the past 10 years, down from about 50 percent in the early 1990s,” said Dr. Colin West, co-author of the study and internist at the Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic.

“If the trend continues, the U.S. could be short 2,000 primary care doctors in 12 years as an aging population requires more complex care and more people get coverage under the health-care law, a study published last month in the Annals of Family Medicine found. The concern many of us have is that as the baby boomers get older and demand continues to increase, it is going to become progressively more difficult for these patients to find physicians,” West said.