Leverage technology

By Zack Budryk

Other solutions to the physician shortage take advantage of new technology. For example, telemedicine is especially useful in rural settings where there may be great distances between patients and providers, according to Sanford School of Medicine Dean Mary Nettleman, M.D.

"If there are areas that can't support or can't recruit a physician, technology has helped us quite a bit," Nettleman told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. "It might be possible to put a physician assistant in one of those communities and have them hooked up and backed up to such an extent that they could handle preventive medicine."

Providers in North Dakota have made similar efforts to bridge the rural care gap with telemedicine, often through affiliation with larger institutions like Catholic Health Initiatives to help build IT infrastructure.

A 2013 study published in Health Affairs went even further, suggesting that leveraging electronic communication could cause the primary care shortage to "evaporate." Researchers found that they could eliminate most, if not all, of the projected shortage by implementing partial pooling of patients by two or three physicians and diverting as little as 20 percent of patient demand to nonphysician professionals or using electronic health record-enabled electronic communications, or both.

Leverage technology