Physician Shortage No Longer Limited to Rural Areas

Oct 23, 2012, 12:16 PM

Large population centers like Las Vegas and Detroit are feeling the effects of the nation’s physician shortage, Bloomberg News reports, which is no longer limited to rural areas. Patients in populous urban areas are waiting weeks—or even months—or traveling to find the care they need.

Many factors are contributing to the shortage, including an aging physician workforce that is reaching retirement, and not enough new doctors in the pipeline to replace them and care for an influx of patients with increasingly complex health care needs.

Doctors also tend to stay near where they train, the story reports, creating poor distribution in states like Nevada that don’t have large medical schools or training hospitals. Census Bureau data shows that Nevada has the fifth-lowest ratio of doctors to patients in the country, behind Wyoming, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Idaho.

One possible solution: other health care professionals. “In a bid to address the shortage, the medical community has embraced the greater use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who can prescribe medicines and diagnose and treat many illnesses,” the story reports.

What do you think? What steps will convince physicians to practice in underserved areas? Register below to leave a comment.

Read the Bloomberg News story.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.