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Alzheimer's Patients May Face Looming Shortage of Neurologists
Date:4/18/2013

THURSDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) and other brain disorders, finding a specialist to treat their condition may be increasingly difficult, according to a new study.

Experts in the field of medicine that focuses on the brain and nervous system revealed that there is a shortage of neurologists in the United States as medical students and residents are choosing other more lucrative specialties. The study authors noted that patients with brain disorders who do find a neurologist would have to wait even longer to be treated.

"With the rapidly rising rates of brain diseases such as dementia and stroke at the same time as the number of U.S. medical residents choosing neurology over other specialties is clearly declining, the U.S. could face a crisis," explained study author Dr. Thomas Vidic, with Elkhart Clinic in Elkhart, Ind.

"Our study found that long wait times for patients to see a neurologist and difficulty finding neurologists to fill vacant positions are adding to the current national shortfall," Vidic, who is also a fellow with the American Academy of Neurology, said in an academy news release. "In addition, the demand for neurologists is expected to grow as people gain coverage through health care reform."

The study found that demand for neurologists would outpace supply over the next 12 years. Right now, 11 percent more neurologists are needed to meet patient demands. That number is expected to hit 19 percent by 2025. By that time, the researchers project the number of neurologists will increase to 18,060 as demand for this type of specialist surges to 21,440.

As a result, patients could be waiting even longer to get an appointment with a U.S. neurologist, the study findings indicate. Previous studies have shown new patients waited an average of 35 business days to see a neurologist last year.

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