Specialists are becoming a more essential component of the American healthcare system. That’s why about one-third of seniors visit at least five different doctors each year. That’s up from less than 20% in 2000.
Over the past two decades, Medicare has seen an increase in specialist influences. There has been almost no change noted to the number of visits to primary care doctors in the network.
When asked if this trend is good or bad, most industry professionals admit that it’s a little of both. On one side, it shows that medicine continues to grow as an option. We have more information about different health conditions, improving diagnostic and treatment choices.
It also means older adults have more transportation issues to manage because they attend more appointments.
What Does the Data Mean for the Future of Healthcare?
In 1980, most Americans over the age of 65 primarily saw their PCPs. About two-thirds of all medical appointments went in that direction, with the rest booked with specialists.
By 2013, about two-thirds of all appointments were getting booked with specialists. The trend went through a complete reversal.
That makes the U.S. different than other developed health systems because the emphasis is often on primary care first. Most studies suggest that other nations follow that model because it delivers better care at a lower cost.
It could be helping older adults, but it could be hurting them. If people don’t have their concerns addressed, they might seek help from another provider. When added to the burdens of medication management and transportation, it might be better for some to pull back on how many doctors they visit.