March 12, 2024

Physician shortages boost likelihood of emergency surgery, complications

Editor's Note

Health complications and hospital readmissions are more likely for Medicare patients living in areas with primary care shortages. The findings, from a cross-sectional retrospective cohort study of data from 2015 to 2019, were published March 4 in Health Affairs.

Specifically, the study showed that patients in areas with the most severe primary care shortages had higher rates of three types of emergency surgeries. They also were more likely to have serious complications and readmissions.

However, those in areas with the most and least severe shortages had similar rates of 30-day mortality. One author of the study,  Sara Schaefer, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told Medpage Today that what surprised her most about the study was the strength of the association for the primary endpoint. Across multiple iterations of analyses, the trend remained consistent, she said.

She added that findings were similar when accounting for areas with a shortage of surgeons.


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