OU-Tulsa's Dr. John Henning Schumann Explains Why "The Doctor Is Out"

Mar 27, 2012

On today's show, we chat with Dr. John Henning Schumann, a writer, internist, and medical educator at the University of Oklahoma's School of Community Medicine here in Tulsa. Earlier this month, Dr. Schumann wrote an article for The Atlantic entitled "The Doctor Is Out: Young Talent Is Turning Away From Primary Care" (which you can view here). As Dr. Schumann notes in this piece: "It's no secret that there's a looming crisis in primary care. Estimates place the shortfall of doctors at 30,000 in the next couple of years. Yet medical schools are flush with applicants. Residency slots are filling at higher rates than ever before as new medical schools have been chartered and class sizes have expanded. So where are all the new doctors? In a word, the hospital." This new breed of doctors --- "hospitalists," as he calls them, meaning "physicians who take care of hospitalized patients but no longer have office-based practices or do primary care" --- has grown dramatically over the past few years. Indeed, their number increased by more than 170 percent from 2003 to 2010 --- and more than 30,000 doctors across the nation are hospitalists. The problem here, of course, is that --- in just a few years from now --- it's likely going to be very hard to find a primary care physician in this country. "To understand how difficult it will be to find a primary care doctor in two years, look no further than Massachusetts," Dr. Schumann's article continues, referring to the state that passed a law a few years ago mandating that every citizen obtain health insurance. (This law, of course, is widely seen as a precursor to the federal Affordable Care Act, which will --- as of this writing --- begin to take effect, nationwide, in 2014.) Dr. Schumann adds: "According to the Massachusetts Medical Society, the average wait for a new patient to be seen by an internist is 48 days." When he's not seeing patients or working with students, Dr. Schumann, who relocated to Tulsa last year, writes a blog called GlassHospital, and he's also a commentator for StudioTulsa on health and medicine matters.