The biggest wave about to knock on the door of America’s healthcare providers is not ObamaCare, it’s the “Silver Tsunami” of Baby Boomers retiring at a rate that will double or triple the number of people depending on local providers like Roper St. Francis.
And, according to Doug Bowling, CEO of Physicians Partners and Chief Strategy Officer, it’s going to be a double-whammy when it comes to supply and demand.
While Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are now retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day, more than 35 percent of today’s doctors are over the age of 55 and will be retiring in the next decade. And, Bowling points out, there are not enough primary care physicians in the pipeline to make up for growing gap.
“The equation doesn’t work,” Bowling said in a recent interview. “We’ll have much greater demand for services, and we’re going to have fewer doctors to fill the demand. Then we’ll have the generational differences, because we know the ‘Gen X’ physicians do not work the number of hours that their predecessors do now.
“Combine that with the fact that 44 percent of all female physicians work part-time,” he said. “That’s a problem because right now 52 percent of medical school graduates are female.”
Doing the math, Bowling said it’s going to take three new doctors to replace two older doctors who are retiring.
So, what do we do about it?
“The predominant shortage will occur in primary care because the Affordable Care Act demands a significant increase in primary care,” Bowling projected. “So we’re going to moving away from our current ‘ad hoc’ medical system to where patients are assigned to a primary care physician who will have a greater level of responsibility in coordinating their care.”
Currently, Roper St. Francis is looking at various models for the future.
(bullet) One is virtual care, where a person can get on their IPhone or computer and have face time with their doctor, decide if a visit is necessary, and even prescribe medications by email. “This is no problem for the younger generation,” bowling said. “They’re already on board with that.”
(bullet) Then there are concepts called “group visits” and “cluster visits” whereby physicians might see a group of diabetic patients on a designated day when they’re simply checking sugar levels and dispensing routine care. Or, they might cluster certain types of patients at certain times of the day so all the team members are present to assist. It’s just more efficient.
(bullet) Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants will become even more important than they are now. RSFH already has a practice in Georgetown with a staff of eight providers (four MDs, four advanced practitioners) and it’s working very well. Future practices may include doctors, advanced practitioners, a social worker, a care coordinator, and a pharmacist.
“The trend right now is that admission rates in the country are actually down,” Bowling said. “That’s not because people aren’t sick. It’s because so much is now being handled out-patient. And with new technologies, that’s only going to increase in the future.”