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Too few physicians – or not enough? (1958)

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New, quicker cures

The more optimistic medical leaders say the need for doctors is being reduced. They point to such developments as these:

  • Many diseases that once required prolonged medical treatment now can be cured quickly through the use of new drugs and antibiotics. In a pneumonia case, the doctor once made about 36 visits. Now he makes about five. Syphilis and gonorrhea, which once required years to cure, now can be treated successfully in two or three visits. Mastoiditis, which used to require major surgery, now can be cured in other ways.
  • The productivity of doctors — their ability to do more work in a given time — is constantly being increased. Automobiles, good roads and greater concentrations of population enable them to see more people in a day. the telephone makes fewer home visits necessary. Use of hospitals is increasing, thus putting many of the doctors’ patients in one place. New diagnostic techniques enable doctors to find out the nature of illnesses faster. Vaccines and other preventatives are reducing the occurrence of illnesses. The help of technicians and new kinds of instruments and machines enables physicians to accomplish more in less time.

Are there too few physicians?

Answers from physicians

58% say: “About the right number of physicians now.”
20% say: “Not enough physicians.”
18% say: “Too many physicians.”
4% say: “No opinion.”

Answers from the public

53% say: “Not enough physicians now.”
39% say: “About the right number of physicians.”
2% say: “Too many physicians.”
6% say: “No opinion.”

Source: Opinion survey by the American Medical Association

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