Wednesday, December 07, 2011

More primary care doctors needed in rural areas; medical schools can't meet demand

There is an increasing high demand for primary care physicians due to an aging baby boomer population and an estimated 32 million previously uninsured people being added to the patient pool under healthcare reform, reports Bryant Furlow for The Wall Street Journal. Physician shortages are "already evident" in rural and inner city areas, he reports, adding that medical schools can't keep up with demand for more doctors.

Furlow reports teaching hospitals nationwide will have to add an additional 4,000 students each year to meet demand, but current federal primary-care workforce grants and health service funding will only add about 500 to 600 a year. Medicare's funding for resident positions has been stagnant since 1999 and expansion to train new people could cost $1 billion annually. Nursing schools are also expanding to include more "interdisciplinary team training, care for the frail elderly, as well as areas prioritized in the health reform law, such as health information technology," Furlow reports. Also, the need for non-physicians will continue to rise because of health reform's emphasis on an "accountable care model that coordinates patient care across clinical disciplines." (Read more)

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