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Here is a recent article on the notion that predictions of a pending doctor shortage are perhaps exaggerated due to difficulties with forecasting such a dynamic process as the supply and demand for medical doctors.

The country has too few doctors, and the shortage will only get worse over time. As the population ages and the health law expands insurance, the argument goes, there are simply too few doctors to see the newly-insured and the newly-elderly.

There’s just one small problem … It might not be true.

forecasting models have greatly overestimated the doctor shortage

And why do forecasts of simple processes like supply and demand perhaps get it wrong?

You’re basing your projections on the wrong model

Most forecasts of doctor shortages assume that a primary care physician can handle a set amount of patients in a practice, usually about 2,500

However, Green doesn’t think the status quo is here to stay: She argues that the health care system is rapidly changing. First, doctors are increasingly joining up into big practices. They’re able to share support staff and office space, which can make it easier to take on a bigger patient population

Second, the health care workforce is changing, as physician assistants and nurse practitioners take on larger roles. Having non-physicians take care of routine care, things like strep throats and ear infections, can again increase the size of a doctor’s patient population. (wintercow edit: yeah, like doctors will ever allow that to happen)

Oh, so modeling simple processes like the supply and demand for doctors is actually pretty complicated because folks adapt, technologies change, and we can actually do something if a shortage becomes acute. Pay no attention to the man behind the climate change curtain.

2 Responses to “Doctor Shortages Can Teach Us Something About Global Warming”

  1. Trey says:

    Looks like the uncertainty monster is biting at the medical field, as it has done to climate science. Not too surprising given the politicization.


  2. Nathaniel Zhang says:

    I agree that it is hard to make predictions, but Doctors really are giving up more of their responsibility to NPs and Physicians Assistants. Strong Hospital employs the largest number of nurse practitioners and it is growing.

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