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Since at least 2007, Idaho has ranked near the bottom when it comes to the number of doctors working in the state.The latest available data from the Association of American Medical Colleges ranks Idaho 49th among states.The Gem State had 184 doctors for every 100,000 people in 2010.There are many factors that contribute to Idaho’s physician shortage; there is limited access to medical education in Idaho, salaries tend to be lower, and it’s tougher to recruit in rural areas.In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated 39 of Idaho’s 44 counties as Health Professional Shortage Areas.In an effort to encourage more doctors to practice in Idaho, the state subsidizes the cost of medical school for 28 students in Washington and Utah per year. It also has two incentive programs; the Rural Healthcare Access Program and the Rural Physician Incentive Program.The Rural Healthcare Access Program is a way for Idaho communities to recruit doctors by offering signing bonuses or student loan repayments, as well as developing tele-health projects and improving access to care.The Rural Physician Incentive Program is a loan repayment program for doctors who chose to practice in a rural part of the state. It’s open to doctors from all schools, though preference is given to WWAMI and University of Utah graduates. Doctors are eligible to apply for up to $50,000 of loan repayment.

Nation's Largest Telemedicine Provider Leaves Idaho After Severe Sanction

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Charles Williams
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Flickr Creative Commons

The practice of doctors treating patients over the phone, online or by videoconferencing is a growing subset of the health care system.

The Idaho Legislature passed a bill this year calling for stakeholders to set state standards for the practice of telemedicine. Lawmakers see telemedicine as an option to bring health care to sparsely populated rural areas and address a severe doctor shortage in the state.

However, Idaho's medical licensing board earlier this year punished a doctor for prescribing a common antibiotic over the phone. The sanctions against Dr. Ann DeJong are so severe that her board certification is threatened.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the nation's largest provider of telemedicine has pulled out of Idaho, citing regulatory issues.