An interesting article was published in The Atlantic this week warning the medical profession of the mistakes that led to the collapse of 'Big Law' and the entire legal profession. The article makes two main points: First, the job market for lawyers is terrible, with "more than 180 of the 200 US law schools unable to find jobs for more than 80% of their graduates" and, second, the collapse of the legal profession is the result of self-inflicted wounds caused by the legal profession's new-found obsession with metrics like the PPP (i.e. profits per partner) and law school rankings.
But the article fails to point out the ways in which Law and Medicine differ. And these differences help underscore the true problem with health care.
First, Medicine and individual physicians are not suffering from the same terrible job market that is plaguing the legal profession. There are huge projected shortages of primary care physicians as well as specialists such as general surgeons. Even more worrisome; we currently have fewer physicians-per-capita than most OECD countries (and sit far below the OECD average), yet we are faced with a continually aging population, a worsening obesity epidemic, and an influx of newly-insured Obamacare enrollees.
|Source: OECD Library|
Secondly, medicine is moving away, not towards, the individual earnings model implemented by 'Big Law.' Every year, more-and-more money is spent on therapy-specific cost-effectiveness research, cost containment delivery models, and integrated systems that work to contain costs. Unlike lawyers in the legal profession, physicians play a much smaller role in the rising costs of medicine. The vast majority of the rising cost of health care can be explained by the aging population, health factors such as obesity, expensive and often wasteful end-of-life care, and new technologies in the form of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
Instead of warning doctors to be less like lawyers, perhaps we should be addressing the real issues at hand.