States adopt strategies to counter severe doctor shortages

Numerous states have come up with strategies to deal with a severe physician shortage, according to a report from Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

One of the ways to address the doctor shortage is by starting new branches of medical schools in areas that don’t have enough doctors to serve their population, according to the report. That has happened in Arkansas, a state that has among the fewest physicians per capita and many residents with health problems.

Arkansas State University in Jonesboro is opening a new medical school, only the second in the state, which will begin training its first class of 115 students. The school will be operated by the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, which will lease a building on the campus. But the idea is that future doctors who train in Arkansas may be more likely to set up practice there.

Other strategies that are working include:

  • Increase the number of medical residencies, such as Georgia and Texas have done.
  • Offer grants and stipends to medical students and residents willing to do clinical rotations in areas where doctors are needed the most, since physician shortages are most dire in rural areas.
  • Set up branches of state medical schools in underserved areas to bring doctors to those regions. For instance, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine is creating satellite campuses in the southern and eastern part of the state.
  • Allow medical school graduates to treat patients before completing their residencies, which Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri have done.
  • Expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
  • Encourage telemedicine to allow doctors to treat patients in remote, rural areas.

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