Our View: More primary care docs needed

Thursday , June 27, 2013 - 12:56 PM

Editorial Board

Utah needs to take advantage of initiatives that will encourage our state to have more primary doctors. With the implementation of Obamacare, and it’s emphasis on primary care, preventative medicine and healthy living, we need medical professionals who will be doctors that most patients will interact with.

Right now, Utah is low when it comes to primary care doctors. In fact, we rank last in the nation with 58.4 primary care physicians per 100,000 people. The national average is 79.4 primary care physicians per 100,000 people. The shortage will become even more pronounced as more Utahns are moved into health care insurance plans as a result of the new health care law. Rural areas, including parts of Utah, are working to deal with medical needs shortages in many areas, not just primary care.

In Utah, there are efforts to increase our numbers of primary care doctors. The Utah Department of Health has received funding for a work group to brainstorm ideas on how to up the number of primary doctors here. Also, the Utah Legislature passed legislation that will increase the number of students attending the University of Utah Medical School. UDOH is applying for grants that will assist health care in rural areas.

These are great starts, but more needs to be done. It doesn’t necessarily require a lot of money, but communities, schools, other organizations should encourage our young adults to enter the medical field as primary care physicians, with a goal to stay in our state. Children should be encouraged by role models, such as parents, older siblings and educators, to consider a long-term goal of becoming a primary care physician in Utah.

Primary care medicine isn’t the most exciting segment of the medical field. The money isn’t usually as good as a specialist, and TV producers prefer emergency care. Nevertheless, the need is great for high-quality primary care physicians. We hope in the years ahead, many of our brightest young professionals will choose this admirable career.

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