Local medical circles trying to address shortage

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its implications have been on local physicians’ and health care officials’ minds for some time.

Especially of concern is a projected increase in demand of physicians, specifically primary care physicians, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act on Jan. 1, 2014. The projected demand is because of population growth, an aging population and more people being insured by the ACA.

An April 14 News Tribune story titled “Report diagnoses doctor shortage” outlined the demand for primary care physicians and what local medical entities and organizations are doing to address the issue.

Key points from each organization include:

• A team of researchers recently published an article, “Projecting U.S. Primary Care Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2025,” that identifies the U.S. will need nearly 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025.

• The Missouri Primary Care Association is doing everything it can to “open more access points and hire more providers, but the biggest threat to our ability to continue that growth is finding qualified primary care providers.”

• The University of Missouri Medical School hasn’t seen a decline in the number of students going into the primary care profession, which includes family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. “We’ve been successful at generating interest in students and picking students who might be interested,” said Dr. Steven Zweig, professor and chairman of University of Missouri School of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine. “It’s about picking students who are interested and then helping encourage their interests at a much higher rate than average around the country.”

• Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services’ program, Primary Care Resource Initiative for Missouri (PRIMO), encourages people to go into primary care by offering loan forgiveness for working in rural or underserved areas of the state.

• Primary care is Mid-Missouri Area Health Education Center’s emphasis. “We have a pipeline program where we work with kids from the time they’re young, introducing them to health care careers through all the years in between to when they’re practicing providers,” said Jan Shipley, the organization’s director.

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