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Fewer general practitioners may mean more medical mistakes

Whether it is a minor cold or a major operation, whenever an individual in Illinois seeks medical care, they expect that they will be treated not just competently, but with care and respect. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. In today's busy in-and-out environment, many general practitioners are simply overburdened, underpaid and expected to treat many patients as quickly as possible. This leaves them with little room to truly know their patients. Moreover, specialists may focus more on tests and procedures than on the patients themselves.

In the end, according to some there are too many specialists and two few general practitioners. And, unfortunately, medical mistakes can occur when a specialist fails to understand the patient as a whole in a way that develops an integrated treatment plan that is safe and effective. Moreover, the less time a practitioner takes to discuss the patient's ailment with the patient, the more often they may order tests that are unnecessary and even harmful to the patient.

General practitioners often fill the somewhat unglamorous role of providing good everyday medical care. In 1961 nearly 50 percent of physicians in the United States practiced general medicine. However, by 2014 only one-third of physicians did. Medical education often focuses on churning out specialists, not general practitioners. Moreover, postgraduate residency training also focuses extensively on specialties and subspecialties.

This is unfortunate, as multiple studies worldwide show that a focus on primary care can lead to better access to health care, a reduction in the cost of health care and, most importantly, can lead to better preventive services. According to some, if somewhere between 50 to 60 percent of practitioners practiced general medicine, it would result in a reduction of medical mistakes and an increase in positive health outcomes, leaving more patients satisfied with the care they receive.

In the end, it is important that patients receive the quality of care they deserve. Some feel that placing a higher value on general practitioners could achieve this result, leading to better care and fewer mistakes. However, the problem of medical malpractice is multifaceted. There are many reasons behind it, some of which include the following: undervaluing the services of general practitioners, rushing general practitioners through appointments and focusing more on specialists (who may order unnecessary and potentially harmful tests) rather than on holistic patient care.

Source: The Huffington Post, "We Have Too Many Specialists and Too Few General Practitioners," Accessed Sept. 1, 2016

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