The Big Short: The impending physician shortage in California State
Resources are great for any industry—but if they aren’t distributed evenly, it creates just as many problems as having none.
In California, despite overall growth in primary care doctors over the past 12 years, chronic doctor shortages are drastically affecting vulnerable areas. The government, in response, has budgeted $33 million in order to remedy the problem.
While the funding is certainly something, the disparity of primary healthcare options in California requires a more permanent solution than simply throwing money at the problem.
In our blog, I’ll be assessing the discrepancies in where physicians are working versus where they are needed. I’ll also be examining a couple of potential remedies for this overwhelming issue.
The Numbers Tell the Story
Experts believe that 60 doctors per 100,000 people is a sufficient ratio for the primary care physician workforce. Yet, three rural regions in California have less than 50 doctors per 100,000 people. Furthermore, there are a mere 39 doctors per 100,000 people dispersed throughout the Inland Empire.
Comparatively, there are between 60-80 doctors per 100,000 people in the Bay Area and Sacramento.
Such a lack of balance can be attributed to most physicians remaining in close proximity to where they completed their residencies. And the bulk of California’s medical residencies are located in regions with abundant doctor/patient ratios.
As a result, it’s believed that the primary physician workforce needs to increase by 1/3rd come 2030.
Here are a couple of initiatives that could be a real shot in the arm for California’s doctor shortage:
Home is Where the Heart Is
The proclivity for physicians to remain within a 100-mile radius from where they completed their residency can be leveraged to combat the shortage.
Lobbying for federal support to expand residencies to the under-represented areas would be a great start. There’s already evidence that this strategy would work. California has seen previous success with Federal efforts in expanding primary care residencies, but these efforts have been few and far between. Even just organizing for various rural rotation opportunities within existing urban residency programs may help introduce more physicians to communities they would never have come across otherwise.
Perhaps some of these workforce distribution problems stem from doctors’ unawareness of where their services are most needed. As such, they naturally choose to work where is most convenient to their lifestyle. I can attest to this personally- as a locum physician, I clustered at 2-3 medical facilities I knew, because there was no hassle-free way for me to access new job opportunities around me.
By instilling some form of open-access database, clearly illustrating the areas where primary care physicians are most needed, doctors will have the knowledge to make the right decisions that still fit within their lifestyle. For instance, a specialist in an Urban community may very well be amenable to servicing a nearby community in need 1 weekend/month if they had an easy way to explore such opportunities.
Other recruitment sources, such as LinkedIn can prove to be helpful as well in enhancing the physician recruitment efforts.
Do you have an opinion on the doctor shortage in California? We’d love to hear your take in our comment section!
Haneen Abu-Remaileh, M.D.
CEO/co-Founder of Locumunity.com
Locumunity creates a centralized platform that directly connects job-seeking physicians with medical facilities through a data and community driven platform.