Identifying and targeting medical students from rural areas, creating financial incentives and increasing faculty mentoring in medical school are three of the key strategies to address health care shortages in Louisiana. The findings are outlined in the final report issued by the Louisiana Interagency Task Force on the Future of Family Medicine.
The Task Force was formed during the 2004 Regular Legislative Session and was directed to study the role of the family medicine workforce in rural and urban underserved areas of the state.
According to the report, evidence clearly shows there are substantial health and cost benefits to an increased supply of doctors who specialize in family and general medicine, especially for minority populations. States and nations with more primary care medical providers spend less money per capita for health care services with better quality outcomes. Additionally, a lower mortality rate was evident in a population when the supply of primary care doctors was increased, especially in minorities.
The Task Force notes that the least costly initiatives were often the most successful in increasing the workforce of primary care providers. According to the report, the key to the success of these proposed initiatives is to identify and target medical students who are most likely to live and work in rural areas. One strategy the Task Force noted was medical school admissions policies that selectively admit individuals with rural upbringing who intend to return to rural areas to practice family medicine.
Based on the findings, the Task Force also recommends the advancement of family medicine within the medical school through expanded faculty mentoring and curricular strategies, rural medicine training, and residency programs and financial support for students who commit to primary care practice in areas of need.
Because the process to produce primary care doctors starts with career development at the middle and high school levels and continues through residency, the Task Force proposes creating a Family Medicine Commission which would oversee the proposed initiatives. The Commission will track students, collect and analyze workforce data on their training and practice choices and assure accountability for state funds invested in the process of creating a primary care workforce. The Commission also will develop policy and award scholarships and other financial incentives to medical students and providers who intend to study and practice family and general medicine in rural and underserved areas.
In view of the State’s efforts to develop a medical home model of health care delivery, this effort to assure a well-trained and appropriately distributed primary care workforce in Louisiana is timelier than ever.
The report is available online at www.pcrh.dhh.louisiana.gov.