Down home and long-distance solutions to rural doctor shortage
■ Selected articles on trends, challenges and controversies in the changing world of medicine.
Posted Nov. 19, 2012
For years, many rural areas have struggled to attract physicians to treat patients in these medically underserved settings. A quarter of the nation's population lives in rural areas, but only 9% of physicians work there. American Medical News has covered efforts to interest doctors in practicing in rural communities. One solution is appealing to doctors with a work-life balance that can be achieved in a rural practice. In another approach, some medical schools target likely prospects among their applicants and then encourage them throughout their medical education to choose rural practice. Another take on providing rural care doesn't depend on the doctor being there at all and instead relies on telemedicine.
Many of today's doctors strive for a better work-life balance. Organizations that work to reduce a shortage of physicians in rural areas say lifestyle issues can play a key role in attracting doctors to rural communities. Rural facilities are creating more employed positions to address doctors' desire for a better work-life balance. Read more
The shortage of rural doctors is expected to worsen as older doctors leave practice and the ranks of the insured swell under health system reform. Some medical schools are looking for students with rural backgrounds during admissions or earlier to steer toward careers in rural medicine to help fill the void of doctors. Read more
Telemedicine is being used more to fill the void in access to care in rural areas that struggle to recruit doctors. The technology lets physicians treat patients who are hundreds of miles away and don't have a specialist nearby. Agencies, such as the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, monitor chronic disease patients remotely, a move that has reduced hospital admissions and improved care. Read more