The results from the survey, entitled “Physician Survey: Health Reform’s Impact on Physician Supply and Quality of Medical Care,” were intriguing, particularly in light of the most recently published career projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS predicts a more than a 22 percent increase in physician jobs during the ten-year period ending in 2018. This places physician careers in the top 20 fastest-growing occupations from 2008 to 2018. Meanwhile, nearly one-third of physicians responding to the survey indicated that they will want to leave medical practice after health reform is implemented.
“What many people may not realize is that health reform could impact physician supply in such a way that the quality of health care could suffer,” said Steve Marsh, managing partner at The Medicus Firm in Dallas. “The reality is that there may not be enough doctors to provide quality medical care to the millions of newly insured patients.”
It’s probably not likely that nearly half of the nation’s physicians will suddenly quit practicing at once. However, even if a much smaller percentage such as ten, 15, or 20 percent are pushed out of practice over several years at a time when the field needs to expand by over 20 percent, this would be severely detrimental to the quality of the health care system. Based on the survey results, health reform could, over time, prove to be counterproductive, in that it could decrease patients’ access to medical care while the objective is to improve access.
Furthermore, even if physicians are unable to act upon a desire to quit medicine, there could be an impact in quality of care due to a lack of morale in physicians who do continue to treat patients despite feeling significantly stressed.