Survey: Michigan may face a physician shortage in 10 years

By Jay Greene

Another survey indicates Michigan may face a physician shortage over the next 10 years, according to the state Department of Community Health in Lansing.

Of the state’s 41,785 licensed physicians, up to 10,000 said they may retire over the next 10 years.

The data was prepared by Public Sector Consultants Inc. in Lansing.

“This, hopefully, is a worst-case scenario, but it still puts the squeeze on patient care,� said Dr. Gregory Forzley, chair of the Michigan State Medical Society in Lansing.

The survey found that 41 percent of the state’s 25,907 active physicians plan to practice medicine for the next one to 10 years. This is a seven percentage point increase from 2006, when 34 percent said they plan to stop practicing sometime during the next decade.

“There is a graying of medical practitioners in Michigan, and there aren’t enough young doctors coming up to take their places, primarily in primary care,� said Forzley, a family practice doctor.

Factors cited by physicians include age (67 percent), increasing administrative or regulatory hassles (36 percent), inadequate reimbursement (34 percent), high medical malpractice insurance costs (25 percent), lifestyle changes (24 percent), and general lack of job satisfaction (20 percent).

Moreover, 61 percent said their practice is full or nearly full compared with 42 percent in 2005, the survey found.

“We may be seeing a shift where doctors are limiting their practices to pursue other opportunities in administration at a medical group or a hospital,� Forzley said. “This puts pressure on other doctors.�

In June 2005, the state medical society released its own survey that found the state could face a shortage of nearly 6,000 physicians by 2020.

Another physician workforce study in 2006 found that shortages already exist in a number of medical specialties, including cardiology and orthopedics. Other specialties facing shortages are general surgeons, internists, psychiatrists and radiologists. It was conducted by the state’s four medical schools.

“These findings suggest we are going to have to step up efforts to meet the increasing demand for medical care in Michigan,� Janet Olszewski, director of the community health department, said in a press release.

“Because these surveys and other studies have shown that a major factor influencing where a physician practices is where he or she completes the residency, we must be proactive in our efforts to keep our new physicians in Michigan,� Olszewski said.

Anne Rosewarne, president of the Michigan Health Council, said in a statement that the state needs to do a better job of recruiting and retaining physicians.

“That’s going to take continued collaboration and innovation at all levels — state government, colleges and universities, medical and health associations, hospital systems, and health insurers,� she said.

The council offers a number of programs to help reduce physician and other health care professional shortages, including online job boards.

The survey also found:

  • About 36 percent of practicing physicians are primary care doctors who specialize in family practice, general medicine, internal medicine or general pediatrics. The remaining are specialists.
  • The use of electronic medical records or other information technologies is expected to expand over the next three years.

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