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“Where Have All the Doctors Gone?”* Presentation to the National Meeting on Physician Compensation, “Sustainability of Physician Services” Victoria, B.C.

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Presentation on theme: "“Where Have All the Doctors Gone?”* Presentation to the National Meeting on Physician Compensation, “Sustainability of Physician Services” Victoria, B.C."— Presentation transcript:

1 “Where Have All the Doctors Gone?”* Presentation to the National Meeting on Physician Compensation, “Sustainability of Physician Services” Victoria, B.C. R.G. Evans, R. McKendry, K. McGrail and M.L. Barer Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, UBC October 17, 2008

2 “Everyone knows” that Canada needs more doctors… Patients report difficulty finding a family doctor, and excessive waits for appointments (particularly specialists) The news media have taken up the cause, as yet another “crisis”, And the CMA trumpets the issue from the housetops (well, the sides of busses).

3 Less well known …help, plenty of it, is on the way.. Policies ten years ago have already determined our future for the next two decades, at least Further increases in training places now will only add to the surplus twenty years from now.

4 Canadian medical school enrolment and graduates,

5 Well, How Many Doctors Are There? The number of doctors per capita has hardly changed in twenty years In 1990, this ratio was called a surplus. True, the population have aged, but in itself this makes little difference (0.3% - 0.5% per year)

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8 "The system will become one holy mess" unless there is more co-operation among government, doctors and medical schools to control the supply of doctors.” Dr. Gerald Caron, executive secretary, Quebec Medical Association Montreal Gazette, Aug 12, 1986

9 “A majority of physicians surveyed this month say fewer foreign doctors should be allowed to practice in Canada and almost half said enrolment in medical schools should be cut.”... conducted for the CMA by Angus Reid, June 10-12, 1993 Winnipeg Free Press, June 22, 1993

10 “ Canada will resemble a 3 rd world country if the doctor shortage is not addressed.” Rowland Nichol, President of the Alberta Medical Association Edmonton Journal, Aug 25, 1999 But whatever the history or the head count, Isn’t there a severe shortage today?

11 What might constitute reliable evidence of a shortage? Long and growing wait lists? Declining age-adjusted per capita supply? Declining use of physician services, or even stable use in face of aging pop? Survey-based indications of difficulties finding a physician? Other?

12 No evidence of shortage in utilization data Average payments per physician in B.C. (adjusting for fee increases) have, like expenditures per capita, been rising rapidly for the last decade.

13 BC MSC Expend’s per Physician, $1991/92, NPDB Fee Index, Total and Components, 1969/70 to 2007/08

14 BC MSC Expenditure, Total and Components, constant $1991/92 p.c., NPDB Fee Index, 1969/70 to 2007/08

15 Annual % Growth in B.C. MSP Expenditures per Physician, Fee-Adjusted, NPDB Index Total Medical FFS APP* S&S&S** FFS+3S FFS+1/2 3S * Alternative Payment Programs ** Salaried, sessional, and service agreements

16 Is Physician Productivity Really Rising This Fast? If yes, why do we need more doctors? If no, what are they being paid for?

17 Doctors Are Working Less Decline in Self-Reported Weekly Hours of Clinical Work, Canadian GP/FPs Watson et al. ( ) - 8.5% Crossley et al. ( ) % And in Working Days per Year (B.C. MSP billing data)

18 Distribution of GPs who billed at least once in each month, by # of days billing minimum $50, 1994/95 and 2004/05

19 Distribution of surgical specialist who billed at least once in each month, by # of days billing minimum $50, 1994/95 and 2004/05

20 Distribution of medical specialists who billed at least once in each month, by # of days billing minimum $50, 1994/95 and 2004/05

21 Distribution of total payments to GPs, 2005/06 dollars

22 So what do we know so far….? Doc/pop ratio stable Hours and days of work per doc declining Fee-adjusted payments per capita and per doc per year increasing Large (and unchanged) variation in output/billed activity per doctor, or at least per GP/FP

23 But Other Countries Have More Doctors But there is no relation between doctor numbers and contributions to population health For that matter, there is no relation between health spending and health status either, at least not in high income countries.

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25 American studies of regional variations : More physicians (principally specialists) and more hospital capacity are associated with: Higher utilization and costs, but Poorer quality, Higher mortality No greater patient satisfaction

26 More Doctors for Canada? Better Health? Greater Effectiveness and Efficiency? Or Just More Activity and Higher Cost?

27 Well…. Expenditure Equals Income

28 Bu Why Does the CMA Want More Doctors? “At CMA, defending and promoting the interests of Canada’s doctors is central to our mission. Advancing the medical community’s financial interests is an important element of that commitment.” -- Victor Dirnfeld, former president, CMA

29 “To every complex question there is a simple answer: Neat, Plausible, and Wrong.” H.L. Mencken


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