McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 9, 2012

A tale of two 'doctors' at MRHC board meeting

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Members of the McAlester Regional Health Center Authority Board heard Harold Livingston, vice president of the medical consulting company Merritt Hawkins, outline the results of a study on physician recruiting by turning to two fictional television doctors.

For an instant, a still scene from the 1969-1976 TV classic Marcus Welby MD” flashed onto an overhead projection screen in the authority’s meeting room at the McAlester hospital.

Portrayed by Robert Young, the kindly Dr. Welby could cure you, cure your pet, and manicure your lawn, all within 60 minutes, Livingtson noted.

“How did we go from this... to this?” Livingston asked, as an image of the earthy and much more brusque Dr. Gregory House, portrayed by Hugh Laurie in the “House” TV series, flashed overhead.

Both fictional characters were great doctors, who had vastly different approaches to medicine, not to mention bedside manners.

Livingston used the fictional physicians to open his presentation delivered Wednesday afternoon during the MRHC Authority’s regular monthly meeting.

Livingtson began with some hardly encouraging words:

“Don’t kill the messenger; it’s not going to be all doom and gloom.”

He then flashed a group photo meant to emphasize the changing faces which will, more and more, fill the future roles of physicians.

“Fifty percent of the students now in residency programs are female and more and more are foreign medical graduates,” he said, indicating those in the medical field shoould embrace the change.

Health care no longer consists of taking two aspirins, Livingston said, noting that not so long ago there were seven board-certified specialties in the medical profession.

Now, there are more than 200, he said.

In addition , there are more than 10,000 prescription drugs, transplants of a number of organs and even faces, telemedicine and gene therapy.

Health care in the U.S has gone from providing medical care to approximately 200 million people in 1970 to more than 300 million today, Livingston said.

The situation  has resulted in “virtually limitless demand” vs. “finite resources,” he said, leaving in a model that’s no longer sustainable.

Livingston then turned to what health care reform means to physicians and their patients.

According to  Livingston’s presentation, the independent private practice will be largely replaced, though not in a uniform manner. He predicted more physicians will consolidate, be employed by, or align with  larger entities.

He asked another series of questions.

Who will see the 32 million who are newly insured because of the health care mandates? What about the 75 million baby boomers  accessing Medicare, resulting in 50 million new additions between the years 2000 and 2020?

Using a formula, Livingston forecast that 16,000 additional primary care doctors will be needed to handle the growing caseload.

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