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Doctor shortage blamed on health care law

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Updated: 9/05/2013 10:56 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Increased health care regulations are forcing some Florida doctors to cut back on patients, and spend more time on paperwork.

It's one reason patients like Aaliyah Jones are having a hard time making an appointment to see a neurologist.

Jones says she suffers up to five seizures a day, after hitting her head during a fall two weeks ago. She went to three hospitals before finding a neurologist with time to treat her.

"They can only do so much in the time frame that I'm there for. They can't observe a patient constantly."

The American Academy of Neurology recently reported that the demand for neurologists is growing thanks to aging baby boomers and awareness of concussions, but the number of neurologists is also falling. By 2025, the estimated shortfall per patient could be as high at 19 percent.

Dr. Daniel Kantor, Vice President of the Duval County Medical Society, not only blames the shortage of neurologists on more regulations - like the Affordable Care Act - but also on insurers that pay infrequently.

To help treat an increased number of patients, some Florida doctors are experimenting with telemedicine. It's the idea that patients can be examined remotely over the Internet.

This week, state lawmakers took steps to require insurance companies to cover treatments via telemedicine. If passed, it would become the twenty-fist state to pass a similar law.

Kantor says telemedicine has many benefits, including the ability to treat patients in rural areas, and could be more convenient for patients like Jones, who will likely need to see a neurologist for the rest of her life.

"It would be absolutely more preferable than me driving all the way into town, pay a copay, sit there and wait for three hours and then all they do is write a prescription."

But Kantor says telemedicine also has some downfalls that will need to be reviewed before widespread use.

"How can we do it where your privacy is really secure as much as possible? What happens if the Internet connection is slow? Who will ultimately cover the cost? These are all things that healthcare and state leaders need to consider to make it beneficial to patients."

Jones says she's open to trying the technology, but doesn't think it will ever replace the face-to-face relationship that she has with her doctor.

"For my treatment, there are times when going to see my doctor will definitely make me more comfortable."
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