There’s a shortage of psychiatrists in the United States, even in the wake of greater mental health awareness. As Americans struggle to find the care they need, administrators at hospitals, practices, and organizations should consider the benefits of using telepsychiatry and locum tenens psychiatrists.
A Lack of Healthcare Professionals
We’ll give it to you straight: According to a study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. will experience a dearth of between 61,700 and 94,700 physicians by 2025. This shortfall will particularly affect primary care.
AAMC president and CEO Darrell Kirch, MD, noted that, in 2014, 45 states had fewer psychiatrists relative to their demographics than they did in 2009. This is in the face of 43 million U.S. adults who reported they were experiencing mental illness.
“As a psychiatrist, I have seen firsthand what it means for patients not to be able to receive the care they need,” said Kirch. “These projected shortages are very troubling and only reinforce the importance of ensuring that all patients have access to healthcare for their physical and mental well-being.”
The AAMC says it plans to conduct further research, but it believes that, by 2025, the U.S. will need an additional 2,800 psychiatrists to keep up with demand. That may not sound like many, but it’s nothing to shake a stick at, either. “About 35 percent of psychiatrists have 25–49 patient visits per week,” according to Medscape, meaning that such a shortage would affect more people that the number itself implies.
What Does the AAMC Propose?
It’s worth trying to address the impending and current shortage of psychiatrists, physicians, and other healthcare professionals. The AAMC recommends that private and public entities take several steps, such as:
- Encouraging innovation in care delivery.
- Finding better ways to use existing technology (as well as continuing to develop it).
- Providing federal support for physician training programs.
“We believe this is a measured approach to deal with a problem that has the potential to affect every American,” said Kirch. “It strikes a balance between our nation’s budget constraints and what medical schools and teaching hospitals believe is our responsibility to meet the needs of patients.”
Tapping Into Locum Tenens and Telepsychiatry
These are largely long-term recommendations, requiring years of development and strategic adjustments. Many healthcare leaders are worried about the current shortage, and locum tenens and telepsychiatry can both help.
Researchers from the University of Colorado and University of Cincinnati discovered that many organizations are already using locum tenens psychiatrists. In 2013, approximately 3,600 psychiatrists reported having worked on a locum tenens basis in health facilities experiencing shortages. Out of all the locum tenens specialties available, behavioral care is the most in-demand — 34.6 percent of U.S. healthcare facilities have sought such professionals.
Providing care over the web is growing even more popular thanks to faster internet speeds and better security. In the research above, the University of Colorado and University of Cincinnati note that there are approximately 600 companies competing in the telepsychiatry sector. A fair number of of U.S. healthcare facilities — 13.1 percent in 2013, to be exact — use telepsychiatry as a means to provide patients with necessary care. In addition, almost half of U.S. healthcare centers used telemedicine to some degree or another.
Barton Telehealth was built to help connect healthcare organizations with top-quality providers, no matter where they’re located. With a web-based, state-of-the-art telemedicine platform, healthcare professionals are able to provide safe, secure, and highly effective virtual healthcare anywhere there’s high-speed internet access.
There are several benefits for locum tenens providers, such as competitive pay and flexible scheduling, and these clinicians can help fill many of the gaps as long as facilities bring them on. However, the healthcare industry must find creative ways to appeal to college students and other young people, because more of them need to consider choosing a career in psychiatry if we’re going to make it through this shortage.