News Seton Releases Study Showing Physician Shortage Hitting Close to Home

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AUSTIN, TX - (March 25, 2009) - A new study released today by the Seton Family of Hospitals found that nearly 1 in 10 Central Texans age 45 and older report having difficulty seeing a doctor in the past year, with a slightly higher rate of difficulty reported among persons seeking sub-specialty care.

An even greater number of Central Texans expressed concerns about accessing care in the future. The survey found that nearly 1 in 4 Central Texans over age 45 expect to have a hard time finding at least one type of doctor in the coming year. The biggest concern was finding specialty care physicians.

Unlike past surveys that have focused on access to care among the uninsured, 95% of the households included in this new survey reported having some form of insurance coverage, indicating that access to care is not just an issue for those who are uninsured or under-insured.

"The fact that nearly 38,000 Central Texans-most with insurance coverage-are having a hard time accessing the doctor of their choice should serve as a wake-up call to all of us," said Seton Family of Hospitals President and CEO, Charles Barnett, FACHE. "All of us in Central Texas need to understand the importance to the community of implementing strategies now to make sure our friends and families have timely access to both primary care and specialty physicians."

Additional research conducted by Seton and Navigant Consulting, indicates that by 2020, Central Texas is expected to need nearly 3,000 more physicians.

According to the Seton/Navigant study, Central Texas will need about 1,000 primary care physicians by 2020, including family practitioners, internists, and pediatricians. Primary care physicians are an integral part of the health care system-usually serving as the first point of contact for patients.

The study also projects a deficit of about 550 physicians in medical sub-specialties and 500 in surgical sub-specialties by 2020. Hospital-based specialties such as anesthesia and fields such as psychiatry and radiology are also projected to experience severe shortages if current trends remain the same.

The phone survey of 603 households in Travis, Williamson and Hays County, is part of Seton's ongoing effort to better understand the pressing healthcare issues facing Central Texas.

Persons who have a difficult time getting in to see a physician often delay or sometimes even forego needed medical care. "Although most patients eventually get the care they need, many significantly delay care which can have dire consequences-both medical and economic," Barnett explained.

Other key findings from the research include:
• One in four Central Texans believe there are too few doctors in the area.
• The two most frequently reported barriers to seeing a particular doctor were: (1) the doctor is not accepting new patients or (2) the doctor does not accept a particular type of health insurance.
• Nearly 1 in 5 uninsured Central Texas residents (19 percent) reported that they usually go to emergency room when they are sick or in need of healthcare that does not require an overnight hospital stay, compared to 5 percent of Central Texas families with health insurance.

The phone survey was conducted between November 30 and December 2, 2008 by Baselice & Associates.

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