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Efficiency, not more doctors, is the prescription for aging population

HANOVER, NH Recent news reports that threaten a shortage of doctors to treat the burgeoning elderly population are wrong, according to researchers at Dartmouth Medical School's Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences (CECS). In a study published in the March/April issue of Health Affairs, they argue that if employed efficiently, the current supply of physicians and medical students will be adequate through 2020.

In recent months, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and others have called for expanded enrollments at medical schools, arguing that population and economic trends will necessitate an increased supply of physicians. But David Goodman, MD, and CECS colleagues assert that shifting the current workforce to more efficient practice styles would avert the need to train additional physicians.

"Spending millions of dollars annually to expand our capacity to train physicians will not only create an oversupply, but will also divert health care dollars from care that has been shown to improve the health and wellbeing of patients," said Goodman, professor of community and family medicine and of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School.

Instead of expanding the number of physicians being trained, Goodman and his team write, efforts should be aimed at increasing the efficiency of medical practice and directing resources to care that has been proven to be effective. They point to large interdisciplinary (or multispecialty) group practices, a structure that has been in place in many parts of the United States since early in the 20th century, as models of both clinical excellence and efficiency. One such practice, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is widely viewed as one of the most outstanding providers of medical care in the United States, despite using fewer doctors and fewer resources in managing of patients with chronic illnesses when compared to other academic medical centers.

Using the Medicare claims data
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Contact: Andy Nordhoff
Mednews@dartmouth.edu
603-653-0784
Dartmouth Medical School
7-Mar-2006


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