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Martin Odber

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Can the shortage of doctors be solved using an adaptation of the third law of supply and demand?

The third law of supply and demand states "If demand remains unchanged and supply increases, a surplus occurs, leading to a lower equilibrium price."
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand )

If we increased the rate of new doctors entering medicine (using mechanisms such as but not limited to; subsidizing doctors education, further compartmentalizing aspects of health care etc ) until we reached a surplus state then would waiting times and the cost of healthcare go down accordingly?

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    Sep 5 2013: I think you are correct in the economic mechanism, but are looking in the wrong direction for the method.

    I suggest that the problem be broken down further than a shortage of supply of doctors to a question of demand for medical products and services.

    At present, IBM is programming new generations of their Watson supercomputer to have access to all medical literature and research, and be able to compare symptoms and demographic data to provide diagnoses. The X Prize Foundation is offering a prize for a handheld device that can record symptoms and perform basic tests for remote (or instant) diagnosis. In the US, public pressure is directing the medical research establishment towards questions of efficiency. Robotically aided surgery enables expertise to be applied anywhere in the world.

    We haven't elected to produce more doctors, but to provide alternative means of testing, diagnosis, and treatment delivery that don't require as many. The new family physician will be a small box with probes and access ports for disposable testing materials. Medicine at the pharmacy or by mail.

    These solutions can all be mass-produced.
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      Sep 6 2013: Ryan that is fantastic news!

      I was not aware of progress in this direction.
      With regard to the diagnosis end of things how far out is their timeline to deployment at a facility near you would you think?

      20 years, 50?
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        Sep 6 2013: Much sooner than that. Imagine how long it took for a brick portable phone to turn into the modern multimedia device, and then consider that both the need is greater and that technological growth is accelerating. Ray Kurzweil has several videos on Ted that should explain the mechanism.

        As far as a facility near you or I, there are large industrial interests that might succeed I regulating against such devices in the near term. But they will develop anyway, and deploy widely in Africa and Asia, where they are most sorely needed and where the component concepts were largely field-tested. NGOs there already are trying systems of remote diagnosis by describing symptoms over a cell phone text message, and there is a blood test designed that checks for a half-dozen diseases via a drop of blood through paper filtration for some absurdly cheap price - less than a buck apiece, I think, once economies of scale are applied. Also on Ted, under the Mobile and Healthcare headings respectively, I think.

        Full steam testing in 5. On Amazon in 10 or less.
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          Sep 6 2013: The trick with technology is to get it deployed for the whole community.

          It would be brilliant if that could be done.

          But there's a hitch:

          You need to be in the economy to gain access to the technology - i.e. you need money.

          Technology displaces humans in the economy - in the USA, it is shown that 60% of unemployment is due to "productivity" increases due to technological efficiency . the remaining 40% can be traced to off-shoring.
          Unemployment in an economy is equivalent to exile from the economy. This leaves only Keynesian intervention to re-admit those exiles - through "make work" programs or welfare. These are not popular at the moment - I assume that the unsaid alternative is "just let them die".
          Those who have been left to die might not agree. Indeed, many of the non-exiled community would also not agree.
          Market economy moderated by money, including the means of efficiency (technology) seems a potentially destructive approach if the corresponding issues are not also solved.

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