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Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine March 2013
As We See It  

The Looming Doctor Shortage

By William Faloon

Self-Treating Vascular Risk Factors

A comprehensive blood test can reveal a host of factors that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

For instance, if fasting glucose is over 85 mg/dL, the rate of heart attack is 40% higher according to a large study of 22,000 people.26 In addition to the use of supplements (like green coffee extract) and lifestyle changes, people should be allowed to purchase glucose-lowering drugs like metformin and acarbose without tying up valuable physician time. Safety data is widely available and doses could be adjusted by empowered patients to achieve optimal glucose control.

Elevated LDL is one of many underlying causes of atherosclerosis. If LDL levels remained stubbornly high despite lifestyle changes and use of supplements, low-dose statins should be available on a non-prescription basis. I mention low-dose because doctors too often prescribe such a high dose of statin drugs that side effects manifest. We long ago described studies showing that far lower doses of statins can produce desired reductions in LDL without creating new health problems.27,28 Empowered patients managing their own LDL/cholesterol levels would eliminate many doctor visits that clog waiting rooms.

Low testosterone is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in men.29-32 A physician help-line could be established whereby doctors review a person’s blood test results and prescribe testosterone over the phone, thereby enabling more aging men to enjoy youthful testosterone ranges. Follow up blood tests could guard against estrogen overload caused by the excess conversion of testosterone to estrogen, and rule out rare side effects (such as overproduction of red blood cells).

Government regulators today are particularly concerned about people using testosterone without in-person physician visits. The reality is that hurried doctors often don’t prescribe ideal individual testosterone doses, fail to protect against estrogen overload, and neglect long term follow up to ensure optimal free testosterone status. A help-line solely dedicated to providing superior hormone balance in aging men could free up frontline physicians that need to be available to treat patients with serious illnesses.

There is no question that physical examinations by doctors who have adequate time to spend with each patient have clear advantages. But with a looming doctor shortage, this is no longer possible, and aging individuals should be given options that will save them (and the sick-care system) substantial dollars.

Congress Partially Caused this Problem in 1997

With a growing, aging population, the demand for physicians will intensify over the coming years. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates the United States faces a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians by 2020a number that will grow to more than 130,000 by 2025.35

Congress capped the number of federally supported residency training positions 15 years ago with the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.35

Increased medical school enrollment is part of the solution to addressing the doctor shortage.

Projected Supply and Demand, Physicians, 2008-2020

QUICK FACTS:35

  • Shortage of doctors by 2020:.........................................................90,000
  • Shortage of primary care physicians:...............................................45,000
  • Shortage of surgeons and specialists:...............................................46,000
  • Physicians likely to retire in a decade:............................................250,000
  • Americans entering the health care system in 2014:.....................32 million
  • Time from the start of med school until new doctors enter practice: 7 years

Nearly Half of Doctors Already Suffering Burn Out

A national survey of physicians finds the prevalence of burnout is already “alarming.

The report describes the looming physician shortage as millions of “newly insured” crowd waiting rooms, but the report stated that 45.8% of physicians already suffer a symptom of burnout.33

One doctor describes that being asked to see more patients, while not having enough time to devote to them makes one feel like “being on a hamster wheel.

Experts were surprised at the high rate of burnout in frontline physicians and stated that this will adversely affect patient outcomes and ultimately drive up costs, as sick people aren’t being efficiently cured.34

When I develop a medical problem, I don’t want my life to depend on a “burnt out” doctor. If adults are given the option of self-medicating for simple and common problems like elevated LDL, hypertension, and urinary tract infections, then the quality of care can increase as the patient load decreases.

A Trip to Mexico With My Son
Syringe on Mexico City map

Last year I wrote about a trip I took to Mexico where my 13-year old son was bitten by an insect. He developed a painful reaction that required immediate attention. Fortunately in Mexico, you don’t need a prescription to buy most drugs. I was able to walk into a pharmacy and purchase a tube of triamcinolone cream at virtually no cost. Within a few hours my son was cured.

In the United States, it is not so easy or affordable. For some ludicrous reason, the FDA mandates that we obtain a doctor’s prescription for topically-applied triamcinolone cream. If this insect bite had occurred in the US, I would have had to find an urgent care medical facility that was open, pay the doctor over $100, and then take the prescription to a pharmacy and wait for it to be filled. My son would have spent many additional hours in pain and I would have spent a lot more money and time.

If I could not locate an urgent care center, a hospital emergency room visit would be the only alternative. The cost to me and my insurance company would have been over $500.00 for an ER room visit as opposed to spending only a few dollars for a tube of triamcinolone cream at a Mexican pharmacy with no prescription.

The Mexican pharmacy, by the way, was overwhelmed with American tourists who were behaving like children in a candy store. The shelves were stocked with just about every popular American prescription drug, but no prescription was required. Prices for most drugs were a fraction of what they cost in the US.

The coming shortage of physicians mandates that most prescription drugs be available to empowered patients in the United States without the requirement of an in-person physician visit.

Public Needs to Act!

The public is fearful of change, even when circumstances dictate it and the overall result would be huge numbers of human lives spared.

The entrenched establishment dreads any variation that would reduce their profit machines and will not hesitate to disseminate false and misleading propaganda to protect their virtual monopoly.

The appropriate deregulation will eliminate the healthcare cost crisis, yet those who financially benefit from today’s broken system (like pharmaceutical companies) will violently oppose these rationale proposals.

Citizens must act and demand common sense change.

Penalties of Failing to Face Reality

This article only touches on alterations to healthcare regulation that would slash medical expenses, improve patient outcomes, and alleviate physician shortages.

The financial news publishes articles each day describing how sick-care costs are bankrupting governments, businesses, unions, and individuals. I ask when you read these distressing reports that you recall that Life Extension has battled the inefficient regulatory structure behind this cost crisis since the early 1980s.

We predicted with intrepid certainty that failure to tear-down suffocating regulatory barriers would lead to catastrophic economic problems while stagnating the scientific advancement.

The looming shortage of physicians will affect most everyone reading this article. It is just one symptom of a sick-care system plagued by regulatory inefficiency.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to take aggressive care of your precious health every single day, as I know most of you do already.

Comprehensive blood tests performed annually, and access to a blood pressure monitor, are two simple steps aging Americans can use to become “empowered patients,” thereby not being 100% reliant on hurried physicians.

For longer life,

For Longer Life 

William Faloon

References

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