Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Research reveals 'severe' shortage of rural ER doctors

New research shows a "severe" shortage of emergency physicians in rural areas, Christopher Cheney reports for HealthLeaders. The study, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, examined 2014 Medicare data and found that urban counties had a higher proportion of emergency physicians compared to overall emergency clinicians such as nurse practitioners--63.9 percent--compared to rural counties' 41.4 percent.

According to the study's lead author, M. Kennedy Hall, earlier research shows that rural areas have fewer incentives to lure ER physicians and more barriers; that research also showed several factors influence which location a doctor chooses to practice, including lifestyle, access to amenities and recreation, ER volume and acuity, family and spouse considerations, access to specialists, and location of residency programs (most are in urban areas).

Other previous research shows that strained budgets keep rural hospitals from hiring more ER physicians.

Hall said hiring non-emergency physicians and advanced practice providers such as nurse practitioners for emergency care positions might be a good fit for rural ERs struggling with costs. "As emergency departments increasingly serve as health safety nets in rural areas—becoming both primary sources for hospital admission and hubs for unplanned acute care—a mixed ER staff of emergency physicians, non-emergency physicians, and advanced practice providers may be able to better collaborate on care coordination," Hall said.

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