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Dec122011

Cost Containment And The Future Of US Health Care: What Does It Mean For Student Doctors?

Opportunities for doctors are changing.

The name of the game in health economics these days is cost containment. The U.S. pays much more for the same outcomes as the rest of the western world, and that is a big problem for a debt-ridden economy.

Today the WSJ highlights this very concept. As a medical student, one has to wonder what cost-containment means for the future of our practice. With hospitals forming large conglomerates of satellites and endless referral networks, the traditional private doc is quickly losing the battle. Today's article points out that recent economic challenges are further increasing the pressure to contain costs, accelerating a trend that is limiting physicians with more of an independent streak--the "uncommon" MD.

The article predicts that only 1/3 of docs will own their own practice in 2013. Students who find ourselves with a competitive, managerial or entrepreneurial streak will find these political changes challenging. But then again, the need for cost-reduction opens the door for innovative physicians to find their own new niche amongst a changing healthcare market. Will healthcare turn into a Wal-Mart style monster of efficient, standardized care or will the uncommon MD fight to keep healthcare personal? Certainly only time will tell.

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