Shortage of Neurologists

4:06 PM, Apr 18, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- One in six Americans are currently suffering from brain disease, according to American Academy of Neurology.  Yet, these people may have to wait longer to see a neurologist or may even have trouble finding a neurologist, according to a study published in Neurology.

According to the study, it is a simple economic effect: the demand for neurologists will grow faster than the supply.

So why the shortage of neurologists?

According to the Academy of Neurology, neurologists' payments will decrease by seven percent and the specialists are undervalued by the Medicare payment system.  

Plus, with so many students coming out of medical school with piling debt, they are choosing other specialties with more financial benefits.

And this is a crucial time for neurologists.  The baby boomer generation is starting to age, which means more people are starting to develop brain diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Previous studies have found that in 2010, the average wait time for a new patient who wanted to visit a neurologist was 28 business days.  And just two years later, the wait time increased by seven business days.

The study estimates that the U.S. currently needs 11 percent more neurologists to meet the supply and demand effect.  They predict by 2025, the U.S. will need 19 percent more neurologists than are available.

Next Tuesday, 150 neurologists will head to Capitol Hill in hopes of persuading Congress to protect patients' access and neurologists' care.

"With the rapidly rising rates of brain diseases such as dementia and stroke at the same time as the number of U.S. medical residents choosing neurology over other specialties is clearly declining, the US could face a crisis," said study author Thomas R. Vidic, MD, with Elkhart Clinic in Elkhart, Indiana and Fellow with the American Academy of Neurology.  "Our study found that long wait times for patients to see a neurologist and difficulty finding neurologists to fill vacant positions are adding to the current national shortfall.  In addition, the demand for neurologists is expected to grow as people gain coverage through health care reform."

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