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October 25, 1985

Neurological Surgery

JAMA. 1985;254(16):2310-2311. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360160142038

One of the favorite pastimes of health planners is predicting the health manpower needs of the country five or ten years in advance. Of the various methods used, a recent popular technique involves "Delphi panels." Instead of peering at sheep entrails, the modern Delphi panelist charts the growth of the population and the growth of the number of specialists, couples these with statistics on how busy specialists are at the time, and then predicts future needs. The problem with this technique is that a new operation can alter the statistics dramatically. Ten or 15 years ago, cardiac surgery seemed to be dwindling because congenital defects were few in number and rheumatic fever was infrequent. Arrival of the coronary artery bypass procedure revitalized the specialty and made all prior predictions of need obsolete. Members of all specialties harbor the hope that a new procedure will dramatically increase demands for their services.