Physician shortage in Iowa and nation

Published: Jun. 6, 2019 at 3:07 PM CDT
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A study from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that Iowa ranks 46th in the nation for physicians per 100,000 patients, Illinois ranks 19th.

The physician shortage is affecting the whole nation, but especially rural areas.

"We have been seeing a shortage in physicians for several years" explained Dr. Paul McCloone, Chief Medical Officer at Unity Point Health-Trinity Quad Cities.

The fields facing the biggest shortages are medical, pediatric, and OGBYN.

"We're competing with a large market for that. What we're seeing now is more physicians aren't able to sustain a small practice, an independent practice they're looking to be employed so in those areas they're looking to support their practice" said Dr. McCloone.

Starting your own practice used to be easy, but McLoone says it's become more difficult.

He says it's because of changes in regulations, "those models are harder to sustain now due to different regulations and administrative requirements that go with running a practice. So that administrative support and also the work-life balance of having a partner that can cover for them when they want time off or time with family."

Therefore, it's easiest to join a larger group - and those are more often found in metropolitan areas, like the Quad Cities.

"They do struggle more because physicians want to go where they feel more supported in a larger practice environment

"We want patients to have access so that be through express care clinic, through a traditional clinic and having enough physicians to staff those models and enough for other communities is important for the community," said McCloone.

He hopes new legislation could help. A bill was recently introduced to help attract international physicians. Currently, an international doctor can practice in a rural area for three years - and if they want to renew that visa, they have to go to their home country for two years before coming back to the United States.

That bill still has to go through the Senate. But, it could help more underrepresented communities get the medical care they need.