Primary care physicians are also in short supply. Lower reimbursement rates and perpetually rising overhead costs have resulted in an increase in daily volume, Brown said.
"The crux of this issue is time, and it is an important commodity for patients as well as physicians," said Dr. Randy Wexler, an assistant professor of medicine at the Ohio State University. "However, it cannot be discussed in a vacuum."
Wexler noted that Tuesday he spent an hour and 15 minutes talking to a family with a member who'd been recently diagnosed with a terminal disease.
"What should I do?" Wexler asked rhetorically. "Tell them their 15 minutes is up, and that they will have to leave?
"If we are going to have a discussion as to the value of time, and patients want to be paid for theirs, then the change must encompass the physicians time, too," said Wexler. "That means paying for after-hours advice, forms that are needed ... or [paying] if you need more time than scheduled so the physician can pay all the patients who will now be late."
Wexler said recent research found that primary care physicians typically spend up to 50 percent of their work time performing tasks for patients that are not reimbursable because the health care system only pays for face-to-face visits.
But in an industry filled with life and death emergencies and medical complications, Dr. Mark Fendrick, professor of internal medicine and health management and policy at the University of Michigan, said it's too difficult to guarantee an exact schedule every day.
"If I cannot get a cable repairman or furniture delivery to commit to a window of less than four hours in duration, how can we expect a physician -- with all the variability of patient complexity and needs -- to always be on schedule?" asked Fendrick.
MedPage Today's Kristina Fiore contributed to this reporting