The psychiatric community faces a great challenge. It isn’t one from a new condition, a shift in healthcare or a new treatment regimen. The challenge the community faces is one that exists solely within itself and among its members.
Which, in some areas, are simply too few to count.
As advocates and healthcare professionals have worked to break down the barriers of negative stigma related to mental health services, the demand for psychiatric services has grown. This growth, however, comes at a point when the numbers within the psychiatric community continue to shrink, and the disparity between the two is creating a medical crisis across the nation.
Research shows that the pool of active psychiatrists decreased 10 percent between 2003 and 2013. The causes for this are numerous, including: an aging workforce, higher burnout rate, lower reimbursement rates and documentation/regulation restrictions that make coordinating care difficult.
Further compounding the problem is the fact that available practicing psychiatrists are disproportionately spread across only a few regions. A county survey shows 77 percent are underserved in their psychiatric needs. Nationwide, more than half of the country (55 percent of states) reports a “serious shortage” of psychiatric services in the child or adolescent sectors.
The market is further reduced by the continual flood of psychiatrists who abandon the conventional facility practice for a cash-only business model. The report finds that psychiatrists working in this way now account for 40 percent of the market and are second only to dermatologists in their commonality among their profession.
What does the lack of psychiatrists mean?
The most glaring concern created from the lack of qualified psychiatrists is that many deserving patients will go without the treatment they need. However, the problem extends beyond that. As the discipline continues to be stretched thinner and thinner, practicing psychiatrists are left with less time to utilize their knowledge in providing guidance or to continue to hone their craft through additional education, hastening burnout and decreasing the sharing of information.
This is a glaring issue as the field is continually evolving, and today’s psychiatrists rarely have time to keep pace while still giving their patients the time they deserve.
Solving the psychiatric shortage
Rectifying the current psychiatric shortage is hardly as simple as correcting any one of the problems listed above. The market will not be flooded by additional psychiatrists if those practicing can start earning more, for example.
An increase in earnings will help, but growing psychiatric professionals’ numbers to a level that the market demands will require a comprehensive solution that includes adjustments in reimbursement, new innovations and efficiencies, and a reduction in the regulation that is suffocating the industry.
EHR technology solutions can help in reducing the administrative obligations. ICANotes’ specialized EHR software enables psychiatrists to see more patients each day by easing the regulation and documentation burden. The software can be easily customized to fit specific needs and it requires no capital investment or infrastructure to maintain. In addition, because it self-codes, and updates to match the latest healthcare standards, psychiatrists can rest assured they are always up-to-date on the latest regulations while also billing at the highest possible level.
All of this allows psychiatrists to return to the work that motivates them — caring for patients — and doing so may be just the motivation other professionals need to enter the discipline.
Clinical Director October has been a Registered Nurse for over 15 years. She is board certified in Mental Health and Psychiatric Nursing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also graduated with bachelor and master degrees in Nursing from Western Governors University.