Although the number of physicians inthe nation has grown and doctors arespending more hours per week on patientcare, doctors still feel pressed for time,according to a survey by the Center forStudying Health System Change (www.hschange.com). The study, which coveredthe 5-year period between 1997 and 2001,shows that doctors spent an average 46.6hours a week on patient care in 2001, upfrom 44.7 hours a week in 1997. Despitethat increase, 34% of the doctors surveyedfelt that they didn't have enoughtime to spend with patients, up from 28%in 1997. One possible reason for this seemingdichotomy is the increased emphasison preventive procedures.
American Journal of Public
A recent (www.ajph.org) study estimatedthat doctors could spend more than 7hours a day just following governmentstandards on disease prevention. Also, asmedical treatment gets more complex,more coordination with other caregiversmay be necessary, which could indicatethat the increased time spent on patientcare activities may not be spent in face-to-facevisits with patients.
Other signs of a possible physicianshortage, despite an increase in the numberof doctors, is the fact that patientswaited longer for visits, even though thepercentage of Americans who had a doctorvisit at least once a year stayed thesame. Although waiting times for primarycare physicians were virtually unchanged,the median waiting time to seea specialist in 2001 was 8.1 days, comparedwith a wait of 6.6 days or more in1997. Also, the number of primary caredoctors who reported problems inarranging specialty referrals grew from4.8% in 1997 to 7.2% in 2001.