Doctor Shortage

Stethescope, Health Care, Doctor, Medical
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Falls will soon be home to its first internal medicine residents in an attempt to retain more doctors in the Gem State.

Amanda Peacher / Mountain West News Bureau

If you’re looking for a new primary care doctor in states like Idaho or Wyoming, good luck. Our region has some of the worst doctor shortages of all U.S. states.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho lawmakers are considering a proposal to make more room for Idaho students in a University of Washington med school program. Idaho doesn’t have its own medical school, so the state instead works through a U-W partnership known as WWAMI.

The proposal would increase the number of slots for Idaho med students from 30 to 35 next year. It could go up to 40 in two years.

Charles Williams / 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.

For decades, rural parts of the Northwest have found it difficult to lure doctors to small towns. Community leaders in Yakima, Wash. went so far as to found a small medical school to train doctors to practice in these underserved areas.

The Pacific Northwest University opened in 2006. But there is a problem. Small towns throughout the region just don’t have enough residency programs. And that means many of these doctors-in-training may move away.

Dentist
Defence Images / Flickr Creative Commons

Oregon and Idaho need more dentists. That's according to a new study out Tuesday from the Pew Charitable Trusts. It puts Oregon and Idaho among the top 10 states with the worst shortages.

Unless you live in a rural area, you probably haven't felt the dearth of dentists found in the Pew study. As Portland dentist Jill Price puts it, the problem isn't so much a shortage as poor distribution.

“And we need to find ways to move people into the outlying areas," Price says.

University of Idaho President Duane Nellis told state budget writers this morning that the 20 seats funded by the state in WWAMI, the cooperative medical education program with the University of Washington, are no longer enough to meet the state’s medical needs. He said Idaho needs more doctors.

“We have the lowest number of physicians, per capita, of any state in the nation,” Nellis said.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

Many states don’t have enough doctors.  As we’ve been reporting, Idaho has fewer physicians per capita than every state in the nation except Mississippi.

Why Idaho's Doctor Shortage Won't Be Easy To Solve

Oct 2, 2012

Dr. Jennifer Petrie has known since she was a high school student in Lewiston, Idaho, that she wanted to be a rural family physician.

Petrie works at the Emmett Medical Center, less than an hour’s drive north of Boise.  She sees patients four days a week in her small, sparse examining room here and also works the emergency room shift a couple times a month at the neighboring hospital.

Dr. Petrie is a generalist. She didn’t want to choose a high-paying specialty.  For her, seeing all kinds of people was the most appealing thing about being a doctor.