Sunday, May 18, 2008

Health Beat: Why We Don’t Need More Doctors

Health Beat: Why We Don’t Need More Doctors: "Patient outcomes are not better in regions with a very large supply of physicians.”

Meanwhile, Fisher and Goodman observe, while an embarrassment of physicians doesn’t mean higher quality care, “having more physicians does, however, mean more spending on health care — a strong correlation that should not be surprising. Physicians' incomes are an important component of medical spending, and physicians order most clinical services.” That last point is important, and reminds me of this chestnut: “Can you name the most expensive piece of equipment in a hospital?” The answer: “a doctor’s pen.”

This is not to say that doctors intentionally over-prescribe medications, tests or procedures. It is just that when there are more of them in a community they have more time to see their patients more often, to consult on other doctors’ patients in the hospital—and to do more to them. “That’s just what doctors do,” Fisher, one of the authors of this article once told me: “We keep busy.”

Fisher and Goodman then tick off three reasons why we should not try to expand the physician workforce"

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