Tackling Surgeon Shortage in the United States

The shortage of general surgeon impact timeliness and quality of care for patients. The United States, unfortunately, does not have enough surgeons. In 2020, for example, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a shortage of 29,000 to 42,9000 doctors, a number expected to rise. They expect the shortage to be about 46,900 to 121,900 physicians by 2032.

According to Janis Orlowski, MD, AAMC’s chief healthcare officer, the shortage is driven by the U.S.’s growing population and its increasing population of people aged 65 and above. The aging population of baby-boomers strongly impacts the demand for physicians, increasing the workload across the health care system. Within the next decade, over 2 out of 5 current surgeons (40%) will be 65 years old or older, leaving shortages in ophthalmology, orthopedic surgery, urology, and general surgery fields.

Another demographic disproportionately affected by surgeon shortage is the poor. The current workforce distribution limits access to surgical care for both rural and inner-city patients. Hospitals in rural and underserved urban areas struggle to recruit and retain staff. And while urban communities are located near major medical centers, there is poor access to surgical services for underserved urban communities.

Ultimately, the shortage of surgeons reduces access to care, and causes a delay in treatment, resulting in complications and unnecessary deaths.

At the moment, we’re not training enough physicians to meet the rising demand. Despite rapid medical innovation, the surgical-education system has lagged behind. Orthopedic surgery, for example, requires a 14-year commitment after high school. Furthermore, the methodology of training surgeons continues to be a difficult, inefficient, and costly process.

Even more, surgeons across specialties leave their training programs ill-prepared. A 2017 University of Michigan study found that 30% of surgeons could not operate independently after residency. And as practicing surgeons, they are prone to burnouts, at an alarming rate exceeding 50%.

How can Immertec Help?

Immertec’s technology addresses the multi-faceted problem of physician supply and demand. The Medoptic training model works in the same way physicians are taught. It immerses surgical trainees into a live operating room environment, providing real-life “hands in patient” learning environments.

They can remotely observe surgical and medical techniques, communicate with the expert surgeon and each other, and ask questions as they learn procedures. With Wi-Fi and a VR headset, surgeons can gain access to a live “boots on the ground” training, from anywhere in the world. They can gain back 44 hours and only need to set aside two hours for training. They are then able to use the 44 hours for patient care, family time, and personal time.

To learn more about how Immertec facilitates surgical training, read “Virtual Reality in Education” by Dr. Shannon Bailey.  Reach out to our Immertec team to learn more and get started.

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