Traditionally, parents encouraged the next generation to seek careers as doctors or lawyers – not only the most prestigious but also, at that time, the most lucrative. However, in today’s world, particularly from the perspective of this medical malpractice attorney, I have not encouraged the same goals for my children. College is expensive enough; I can’t imagine my daughters having to navigate the loans associated with medical or law school.
However, there is tremendous growth in the field of allied health care professionals, with even more anticipated under the Affordable Care Act. As more people gain access to health care, and the reimbursement rates drop for physicians, the need for nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants is on the rise. Indeed, I presented these career options to my teenage daughter (should she not become the world’s next talent in fashion design). My pitch argued that the number of years of schooling and training for each is significantly less than for an M.D., as is the cost. Additionally, from a liability perspective, while allied health care professionals can and do get sued, their exposure is mitigated as they are obligated to work under the supervision of a physician in many instances. Furthermore, the cost of their malpractice insurance can be picked up by their employer. Let’s just say, at 14, she has not yet made up her mind.
Some have suggested that by far the greatest increase in the number of allied health care professionals is being realized in rural areas. Similarly, the practice of telemedicine has seen an increase in these areas. The concept originally presented itself in radiology where digital imaging can be viewed by radiologists anywhere in the world and the results communicated immediately, usually overnight in a hospital setting. Advancements in technology have permitted primary care physicians or even specialists to make assessments or diagnoses via applications such as Skype or FaceTime for those in rural communities where doctors aren’t drawn to practice. Robotic technology also makes this practice more of a reality for surgery. As a natural progression, there should also be growth in the market for “techies” to cross over into medicine as well.
This of course raises an obvious concern – are we on the road to a physician shortage? Not only is the population growing, but the aging are surviving longer. This, with greater access to health care, has the potential to exponentially increase the numbers of patients. With more and more parents such as me discouraging their children from applying to medical school, the next generations could be in real jeopardy.