August 25, 2016 by Harry Stoll
Being a proud Wisconsin citizen and a healthcare consumer for my entire adult life in Wisconsin, I was deeply concerned when I first heard my state would face a humongous physician shortage.
Wisconsin has an outstanding national reputation in healthcare to protect and build upon. Coming up short 2,000 docs by 2030 could be a disaster for Wisconsin. However, I was heartened to discover Wisconsin’s strategy to meet this challenge is a very high priority perhaps even the highest priority in our healthcare environment today.
Since more citizens have health insurance coverage, and our aging population is increasing, naturally, the demand for more providers will become greater. Wisconsin is teaming up with the private and public sector in order to meet this challenge. For this reason, I feel Wisconsin will remain a nationally-recognized healthcare leader.
A recent report published by the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce (WCMEW) indicates that Wisconsin will face a shortage of more than 2,000 physicians by 2030. There are several reasons for this phenomena, the biggest being Wisconsin’s aging population. Wisconsin, however, has forged a strong public/private bond that is intent upon growing doctors right here in the state to meet its citizens’ healthcare demands.
Wisconsin Hospital Association CEO Eric Borgerding said his association has focused its efforts on making certain that physicians graduating from medical school have an opportunity to complete their residencies in a Wisconsin community, and then establish their practices here.
Along this front, Wisconsin hospitals worked closely with the Walker Administration and the Wisconsin Legislature to create matching grant funds for new residency programs and to expand existing residency programs. Wisconsin hospitals and health systems provided $177 million to fund physician medical education in 2015.
According to Borgerding, the programs are on track. By 2021, it is estimated Wisconsin will have 73 new medical residents as a direct result of the new hospital-backed program. The new residency positions have been focused on primary care, including psychiatry, surgery and rural medicine. As the WMCEW report indicated, Wisconsin needs to build on this start and use a ‘grow our own’ approach to make sure Wisconsin has enough caregivers for its future.
Wisconsin has also made progress expanding medical school class size at the Medical College of Wisconsin, which has opened two new campuses. Additionally, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health has gradually increased the class size of their special program, the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine, since its inception in 2007. The schools have combined to increase medical school capacity by 50 physicians per year. However, if these physicians are not able to match with a residency program in Wisconsin, they will leave the state to complete their residency. Then it is much less likely they will return here to practice. According to Chuck Shabino, M.D., the WHA’s Chief Medical Officer, “Where a physician completes a residency is the best predictor of where they will establish a practice.”
The competition nationally to recruit physicians is fierce. Wisconsin is not the only state facing a physician shortage. All states are working to increase their own medical school capacity and add residency positions, in addition to recruiting established physicians from other states. Wisconsin is consistently recognized for its high-quality, high-value health care delivered by physicians with very high standards of patient care. So when other states are scouting for recruits, they come to Wisconsin.
According to the WCMEW report, Wisconsin will continue to focus on remaining competitive with other states by monitoring the supply of and demand for doctors, while ensuring that the aspects of our state that attract physicians are maintained.
Great healthcare is one of the most important assets we have in Wisconsin, delivered by dedicated and highly-skilled professionals. Another of our state’s greatest assets is teamwork. Working together, our hospitals, colleges and state government will ensure we remain one of the top destinations for our very own home-grown physicians.
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