Employers Should Act Now to Deal With Looming Doctor Shortage

Posted: Updated:

Today's healthcare landscape is changing rapidly, and it should come as no surprise that these changes are steadily impacting every single facet of the industry. From diagnostic tests to pharmaceutical costs to post-acute services, prices are steadily rising, and skilled workers are hard to come by.

Unfortunately, that worker shortage now includes primary care providers. In fact, there could be a shortage of up to 100,000 physicians by 2025, according to the American Colleges of Medicine. There are several factors contributing to this staggering shortage, including an increasingly competitive medical school application processes, regulations that cap the number of residency positions at hospitals, and an entire generation of providers aging out of practice faster than new physicians can enter.

With fewer physicians providing primary services, even patients who have access to comprehensive healthcare benefits from their employers may find it harder to get the care they need. As a result, many of them will either not seek out primary care services or will have to pay top dollar for hard-to-find healthcare. Both of those scenarios will result in higher out-of-pocket costs for both employers and employees.

We cannot simply create a larger supply of physicians, but we can - and I argue businesses, employers, and healthcare providers must – embrace new tools that balance supply and demand, including:

  • Technology that optimizes the care experience for physicians and patients;
  • Physician-led team care models that create more patient-provider time;
  • Using data analytics to address their population’s health; and
  • Choosing technology-enabled health and wellness benefit providers.

We must also work together to remove barriers to primary care. Investing in an onsite or near-site clinic initiative is one way to do make it easier for employees to receive care while combating chronic conditions and lowering employer healthcare costs in the long-term. By providing unimpaired access to a primary care physician through an onsite or near-site clinic, employers can proactively:

  1. Impact Preventative Care: There are countless reasons why people don’t visit the doctor regularly, including uncomfortable situations, inconvenient locations, price, and just plain old forgetfulness. Those who don’t visit a primary care physician regularly are at risk of living unhealthy lifestyles or developing long-term chronic health issues. With an onsite or near-site clinic option, it’s simple and easy for employees to meet with physicians in a comfortable, cost-effective environment. Employers can directly impact employee health, which in turn positively impacts long-term preventative issues.  
  2. Reduce the Risk of Inappropriate Care: One of the most costly expenses for an employer health plan is emergency care. Visits to the emergency department, urgent care center, or even immediate care clinics can run up healthcare costs without addressing end-of-the-line results. Unfortunately for employers, more than 70% of emergency department visits are unnecessary. These inappropriate care visits are literally burning dollars that could be better spent on employee-first preventative care. With onsite and near-site clinics, employees can easily visit a knowledgeable provider to address any questionable critical situation. This applies to worksite injuries or illnesses, too. While an onsite or near-site clinic might not replace an emergency department for the tough issues, it can be a great first stop to validate an injury before heading to a high-cost care center.
  3. Leverage Technology: With physicians in short supply, employers and other healthcare benefit providers must more effectively manage the supply that exists. Fortunately, consumer-focused healthcare technologies are helping to bridge the gap to optimize both the physician and the patient’s time. One example is the recent rise in popularity in virtual care options, including telephonic or web-based visits for conditions that may not require an in-person consultation. Rather than a patient spending 15 to 30 minutes to a doctor’s office, then waiting another 30 minutes in the waiting area plus an additional 10 minutes in exam room – all  for a 5-minute consultation, a visit can now take place online in 10 minutes total or less.
  4. Manage Chronic Conditions: Today, 1 in 2 American adults has a chronic health condition, ranging from heart disease to high cholesterol to diabetes. As the patient population (and, in conjunction, the employee population) ages, the number of employees with these conditions is growing. Providing self-funded healthcare for employees with chronic conditions is a costly expense, and a growing lack of providers will only make it harder for these individuals to receive care. Onsite and near-site clinics both improves employee access to care and strengthens employer messaging around wellness initiatives. Employers are now taking an upfront position to help employees fight chronic conditions by providing them with exercise information, nutrition coaching, psychological evaluations, and more through onsite clinic programs.

Employers that offer onsite or near-site healthcare are already being heralded as companies that care deeply about their employees. As the physician shortage grows and consumers find it harder and harder to conveniently secure primary care treatment, this solution is going to be in greater and greater demand.

I encourage businesses to explore their options for this kind of remedy now.

Jeff Wells, MD, MBA, is the co-founder of Indianapolis-based OurHealth

  • Perspectives

    • Greg Ballard is the former mayor of Indianapolis and a co-founder and current board member of Indy Women in Tech.

      Shining a Spotlight on Women in Tech

      I still get a thrill driving through the gates of our legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I will be lucky enough to do so for an entire week soon. This week, the best women golfers in the world will once again display their talents at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course in the Indy Women in Tech Championship. However, the tournament is much more than an athletic competition. It is an opportunity to support a solution to a critical economic and workforce development issue.

    More

Subscribe

Name:
Company Name:
Email:
Confirm Email:
HTML
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections
INPower
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • U.S. Steel 'Renaissance' Spurs $750M Gary Works Investment

      Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. (NYSE: X) has announced a $750 million investment in its Gary Works operations. The company says the funds are part of a $2 billion asset revitalization effort that will take place over the next five years. Last year, U.S. Steel detailed plans that involved pumping $35 million into Gary Works, which followed the $23 million first phase of its Hot Strip Mill Restoration Plan. The latest investment, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. says...

    • Fort Wayne Radio Icon Butcher Passes Away

      A fixture in the Fort Wayne radio scene has passed away. Charly Butcher spent more than 30 years in Fort Wayne radio with a successful morning show on WMEE-FM and, most recently, as host of "Fort Wayne's Morning News" on WOWO radio. Butcher was 61. Butcher was part of WMEE's popular "Those Two Guys In The Morning" show with Tony Richards in the 1980s. He joined WOWO in the mid-2000s as host of "Fort Wayne's Morning News With Charly Butcher."

    • (Rendering of phase two of the Riverfront Fort Wayne project provided by the city of Fort Wayne.)

      Fort Wayne Riverfront Contract Pulled

      A proposed $2.5 million contract for the design work for the next two phases of the Riverfront Fort Wayne project has been pulled. Our partners at WPTA-TV report the Fort Wayne City Council withdrew the contract, which was set to go to Philadelphia-based DAVID RUBIN Land Collective.

    • Security Company Announces Layoffs at FedEx Hub

      Indianapolis-based security company Andy Frain Services Inc. has announced plans to lay off nearly 150 workers at the FedEx Indy Hub facility at the Indianapolis International Airport. In a notice to the state, the company says the layoffs are due the termination of a contract for its security services.

    • Figuro3D is headquartered at Notre Dame's Innovation Park. (photo courtesy Figuro3D)

      South Bend Startup Partners With Elkhart Plastics

      A South Bend-based 3D digital imaging company founded by scientists from the University of Notre Dame has launched a partnership with Elkhart Plastics. Figuro3D, which makes 3D scanners used in manufacturing, says the collaboration will help the company focus its development efforts.