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UCSF researchers offer solutions to looming health-care provider shortage
Date:11/5/2013

Thanks to a wave of aging baby boomers, epidemics of diabetes and obesity, and the Affordable Care Act, which aims to bring health care coverage to millions more Americans, the United States faces a severe shortage of primary health care providers.

In a series of papers published in the November 2013 issue of Health Affairs, researchers at UC San Francisco advocated a number of potential solutions to the problem.

In an analysis and commentary, Thomas S. Bodenheimer, MD, MPH, a UCSF professor of family and community medicine, and Mark D. Smith, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation, cited estimates that the U.S. will have a shortage of 52,000 primary care physicians by 2025. To meet the shortage, they suggested the creation of physician-led patient care teams of licensed and unlicensed health care personnel who have been empowered to provide an expanded scope of care. They also advocated increased participation by patients in providing more of their own care.

"The traditional solution to a shortage of physicians has been to mint more," said Smith. "But that won't close the gap, because demand is too strong and too few medical students are choosing primary care."

Instead, said Bodenheimer, "The gap can only be narrowed by empowering all team members to care for a large number of patients based on the team members' training and abilities."

The authors' recommendations include:

  • Empower registered nurses, pharmacists and physical therapists to provide care for "uncomplicated" medical problems such as respiratory and urinary tract infections, low back pain, diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Let unlicensed medical assistants assume responsibility for preventive care needs and patient coaching for chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
  • Use new diagnostic technologies to permit patients to perform self-diagnosis and administer thei
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Contact: Karin Rush-Monroe
karin.rush-monroe@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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