Dustin Collins is a second year medical student at Michigan State University and participates in the Rural Physician Program, which is a clinical option for students who wish to practice in the rural community. He’ll be moving to Marquette to finish med school at the Upper Peninsula Regional Campus next year, then return to the small town community he hopes to serve Marquette.
But most medical students and doctors aren’t choosing that path. Michigan and the U.S. don’t really have a shortage of physicians overall – but they are not locating in places with the greatest needs.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) estimates that in 2015, Michigan has 299 shortage areas and Wayne, Chippewa, and Montcalm counties have the highest number of shortage areas in the state. According to the Citizens Research Council, the shortage will only worsen.
With the Healthy Michigan Plan, almost 600,000 people now have health coverage and there is a growing need for more access throughout the state in urban and rural communities.
We simply need to make basic healthcare services more available. We can provide care for more people by maintaining a consistent scope of practice for non-physician clinicians to provide healthcare services. Physician assistants and other professionals can handle many of the issues that physicians face every day, freeing the physicians to address more complex matters. This may be the fastest and most cost effective way to move forward to ensure our population has access to the medical care it needs.
These health professionals have received extensive training and under proper supervision, can provide preventative care to communities which need it most. Reducing barriers to qualified health care practitioners in appropriate areas should be a priority for lawmakers seeking to improve the health outcomes in Michigan.
With this policy change, our residents can properly receive the healthcare they need and address issues early on, saving the state money and increasing productivity among residents who are in proper health, which in turn builds Michigan’s economic health.