As if neurological diseases weren't anxiety provoking enough, sometimes patients have to wait weeks in order to see a qualified neurologist. In fact, according to the American Academy of Neurology, the average wait time for someone to see a neurologist is almost a month, higher than a large number of other specialties.
During that time symptoms may go on without relief, or people are left wondering what exactly their test results meant. To draw out the suffering of people with neurological diseases in this fashion seems inhumane. So why does it happen?
Despite being a fascinating and important branch of medicine, relatively few medical students are interested in neurology as a field. Faced with growing student debt (over $150,000 according to to the American Medical Association) students are pressured to go into high-paying fields like radiology or orthopedic surgery.
Recently Congress enacted a 10% incentive towards primary care specialties like internal medicine to try to get more students to enter needed specialties. Neurology was not included in this incentive, however. This is especially unfortunate since neurological diseases are becoming more common as the American population ages, and the current lack of incentive for medical students to join the field continues.
The American Academy of Neurology is advocating for further reimbursement for neurologists, including research funding to ensure that further treatments are made available to people with neurological diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and stroke. In the face of calls for decreased government spending and increased cuts in medical spending, it is critical that people with such diseases continue to get the best care available, as soon as possible.