Pediatricians Needed in the Heartland

Cora Nucci, for HealthLeaders Media , December 29, 2010

The week before Christmas, one of the happiest times of the year for families with children, a report came out of New Hampshire that, for rural families, was as sobering as a fly in the eggnog.

While much has been written about the nation's shortage of physicians, a report by researchers at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Department of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Medical School homed in on specifics: kids in the heartland are lacking pediatric care.

The study, published in Pediatrics, examined growth in the primary care physician workforcefor children and in particular focused on the geographic distribution of theprovider workforce.

It turns out that between 1996 and 2006, the general pediatrician and family physician workforces expanded by 51% and 35%, respectively, whereas the child population increased by only 9%, the report says.

But here's the clincher: The distribution of providers is terribly askew. The report says, "Undirected growth of the aggregate child physician workforcehas resulted in profound maldistribution of physician resources."

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1 comments on "Pediatricians Needed in the Heartland"

Roger Downey (12/29/2010 at 12:04 PM)
Cora, Typically, when anyone brings up the topic of the distribution of healthcare professionals, it is usually accompanied by some government program that will either encourage or kindly force physicians to live and work in some underserved areas. There will always be physicians, nurses and PAs who will believe it is their life's mission to work in these areas. But a majority would prefer to live where you and I would choose - near relatives, preferred schools, restaurants, theaters, etc. Just because they chose to enter the medical profession should not mean that now they are obligated to live where patients need them. Since life isn't fair, we shouldn't expect patients and providers to be in near perfect balance. The real solution is to bring the physician to the patient via telemedicine. This is more convenient for both and more cost-effective, and if you are concerned about it, telemedicine has a smaller carbon footprint. Instead of wringing our hands and whining about what will we do, what will we do, why not begin telemedicine programs in these underserved areas.




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