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Health News, Medical School Applications

Medicine Without Doctors?

From an excellent article at The Economist on changing trends in medicine:

With the 21st century certain to see soaring demand for health care, the doctors’ star might seem in the ascendant still. By 2030, 22% of people in the OECD club of rich countries will be 65 or older, nearly double the share in 1990. China will catch up just six years later. About half of American adults already have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or hypertension, and as the world becomes richer the diseases of the rich spread farther…

But this demand for health care looks unlikely to be met by doctors in the way the past century’s was. For one thing, to treat the 21st century’s problems with a 20th-century approach to health care would require an impossible number of doctors. For another, caring for chronic conditions is not what doctors are best at. For both these reasons doctors look set to become much less central to health care—a process which, in some places, has already started…

One approach to making doctors more efficient is to focus what they do… Other problems have inspired other solutions, with technology filling gaps in the labour force…

Such technologies have long seemed promising; recently the promise has begun to be borne out. Britain has completed the world’s biggest randomised trial of telehealth technology, including gizmos from Philips. The study examined 6,000 patients with chronic diseases. According to preliminary results of a study by Britain’s health department in December 2011, admissions to the emergency room dropped by 20% and mortality plummeted by 45%…

The doctors’ power rests on their professional prestige rather than managerial acumen, for which they are neither selected nor trained…

Resources are slowly being reallocated. Nurses and other health workers will put their training to better use. Devices will bolster care in ways previously unthinkable. Doctors, meanwhile, will devote their skill to the complex tasks worthy of their highly trained abilities. Doctors may thus lose some of their old standing.

Areas to think about:

  • How will the role of the doctor evolve in the coming century?
  • Does this strengthen or lessen your desire to study medicine?
  • Will it make medicine a less or more attractive career? How might it affect who applies to medical school?
  • What opportunities do these changing trends offer? What about problems?

About beyondanomie

"It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely, well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely, well and justly without living a pleasant life". - Epicurus

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