As Medical Programs Strive To Crank Out Rural Physicians, The Shortage Grows

Missouri is part of a troubling national pattern of insufficient health care in rural counties. According to the National Rural Health Association, only about 10 percent of physicians practice in rural parts of America, while about 25 percent of citizens live in rural America.

Brunkhorst had to go far for specialty care, but many rural residents have to drive equal distances to receive primary care.

According to the 2016 Association of American Medical Colleges  report, the primary care shortage — already bad in 2015 — has become resistant to cures. In 2015, there was a predicted shortfall of 12,500 to 31,100 primary care physicians, and in 2016 the projection increased from 14,900-35,600.

Programs across the state, programs in the UM System medical schools and programs in schools of osteopathic medicine have been focusing on the shortage for more than 20 years. But it shows no signs of abating. According to a 2016 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, there will be a shortage of between 61,700 and 90,400 physicians by 2025. The number of physicians is increasing, but even the uptick isn’t meeting the demand for health care.

In Missouri, 80 percent of the state is designated as a health profession shortage area, according to a 2014 special report by the Missouri Hospital Association. That means 1 in 5 Missouri residents has limited access to primary medical care, dental or mental health providers.

According to a Missouri Hospital Association’s special report, there are 85 percent more residents per physician in rural areas than urban areas. Since this report, the number of primary care physicians in rural areas has gone down.

The report showed that rural Missouri residents also had higher cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease rates compared to metropolitan residents.

“It just does not meet the needs of rural Missourians to have so many counties with too few health providers,” Kathleen Quinn, MU assistant dean of rural medicine, said. “And it’s not just too few physicians but also too few hospitals.”

Read the full story from Columbia Missourian.