To expand community health centers, teaching centers must grow first

Community health centers are one way that the industry can improve care access, but a shortage of physicians to fill needed roles makes it hard for them to expand--so access to needed teaching facilities must occur first.

To increase the number of physicians able to work at a community health facility, “mega” teaching health centers should form, according to a blog post from Health Affairs. Current THCs provide needed graduate instruction to primary care doctors and dentists who want to work in a community health setting, but they are woefully underfunded, according to the blog.

“We currently possess the capacity to provide high-quality, universal health care for lower-income Americans if we continue to develop our CHC infrastructure to its maximum potential,” the authors write.

The difference between a “mega” THC and the current model would allow more physicians across specialties to move through residency, according to the post. At present, most THCs focus on one specialty. By expanding their scope, they can produce more physicians that can move into the community health sphere that are trained in a variety of disciplines.

These “mega” training facilities would also add prepare more primary care docs for other areas of medicine, too, according to the blog, potentially helping to relieve healthcare’s longstanding physician shortage. The authors point to the shortage of doctors in the Department of Veterans Affairs as a place that THC trainees could potentially make a huge impact.

The blog identifies two major hurdles that could halt the creation of “mega” THC:

  • A lack of faculty availability
  • The curriculum would involve residents providing ambulatory care to patients, which could raise concerns about the quality of care received

The authors note, though, that faculty training programs would effectively handle those two concerns, as it would increase the number of faculty members who are able to oversee the residents’ work.