We’ve all been there. We spend hours researching to find a doctor that’s affordable and reliable, and when we call to schedule an appointment, we’re told the doctor can’t see us for a month.
The dilemma of waiting for inordinately long periods to see a physician is one that many people find themselves dealing with. The question is, why is it so difficult to get a doctor’s appointment? This article will answer that question and provide some possible solutions.
There’s a Physician Shortage
One of the main reasons it’s so difficult to get a doctor’s appointment is a physician shortage. Primary care doctors are especially hard to schedule. One study found that the percentage of primary care physicians in the U.S. dropped from 50% of doctors in 1961 to 33% in 2015.
According to federal data, the United States needs an additional 15,000 primary care physicians to meet patient needs. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects the U.S. will face a shortage of 17,000 to 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034.
So why is there a shortage of doctors? Money may be the leading cause. With medical schools costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, many students can’t meet tuition expenses.
Additionally, primary care doctors earn an average of $103,000 per year less than surgeons, oncologists, and cosmetologists. As a result, just one in six students will choose primary care as their specialty of choice.
The pandemic also played its part in the physician shortage, causing 16,000 practices, around 8% of all physician practices, to close.
The number of physicians available is decreasing, and the number of people who need doctors is on the rise.
A 2018 United Health Group survey reported that the U.S. population will grow 8% by 2030. As a result, the number of Americans over 65 will increase by 38%, and 33% of these seniors will deal with chronic conditions that require medical care.
Additionally, the Affordable Care Act provided more health coverage for primary services. One study estimated the ACA increased patients’ ability to see doctors from 59% to 73%. The combination of an increase in population, more accessible care, and a physician shortage has made it hard to schedule doctor’s appointments.
It’s Good for Business
Doctors may not necessarily be mercenary, but they need to make enough income to pay their bills and staff. Maintaining full schedules is in their best interests, especially if the demand exists. Moreover, doctors are reluctant to turn away patients needing care. They often overbook their schedules to accommodate patients that require treatment. Overbooking leads to long waits for appointments and in the exam room.
Doctors want a busy practice to make money and to provide patient satisfaction. But insurance company incentives are another reason they may overbook their offices.
Blue Cross Blue Shield and other health care insurers provide incentives for doctors by assigning criteria regarding the number of patients signed up for each participating program. Doctors who meet this criterion are given a quality score depending on the number of patients in each program. They are paid each month based on their score, and the higher their score is, the more they get paid.
These health insurance incentives encourage doctors to keep their practices full. And, if you think about it, they also incentivize doctors to maintain your disease at its current level rather than cure it.
How to Overcome the Appointment-Making Dilemma
Unfortunately, patients typically wait a long time to see a medical professional, but there are solutions available.
For example, you may be lucky and find a doctor who doesn’t overbook their schedule. A doctor who integrates efficient practices may get their patients through the system quickly, decreasing wait times to get an appointment and in the exam room. Or you may find a doctor who’s just starting and is still growing their practice.
Another option is to make your appointment through UBERDOC. UBERDOC is an online platform that connects patients and doctors. The doctors set aside exclusive time for UBERDOC patients so they can be seen in 1-3 days.
You can book an appointment directly through the UBERDOC website. The platform can be used by insured and uninsured patients. No insurance referrals are necessary. We keep care affordable, with most appointments costing just $250.
Waiting long to see a doctor is one of the medical industry’s main pain points. UBERDOC offers an exclusive system that allows you to see a doctor in just 1-3 days. Visit us online to discover what we have to offer.