Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Opinion

Column: Working to grow number of primary care doctors in Florida

As access to health care continues to expand, Florida policymakers have correctly noted that our state is facing a very real shortage of primary and family care physicians and nurses.

The Florida Medical Association, an association representing more than 20,000 of our state's physicians, is taking this concern seriously. We are working toward policy solutions that will effectively — and immediately — address the shortage of primary and family care doctors.

What are we proposing?

First, Florida's medical schools will need additional and targeted funding for family practice residencies. While our state has done a great job of expanding the number of medical schools in Florida, the number of residency slots (clinical training positions necessary for medical school graduates) has simply not kept pace.

As a result, we are educating physicians in Florida only to send them out of state to complete their educational requirements. Unfortunately, a vast majority of them never come back. Most physicians settle down within a few miles of where they complete their residency training — and right now, that's in other states. Our plan helps end the exportation of these new doctors by advocating for additional residency funding.

Second, we need to restart student loan forgiveness programs in a way that will encourage new graduates to practice in the areas of primary care and family medicine. Eight-six percent of medical students graduate with astounding education debt. A significant number of medical students graduate with loans of $250,000 or more. For this reason, states that offer loan forgiveness opportunities will have a competitive edge in their efforts to attract physicians. Offering state-funded loan forgiveness initiatives will encourage new doctors to direct their practices into needed areas almost immediately.

Third, our physician members are revamping their business and practice models to expand the collaborative relationship between physicians and physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners. By doing this, we can properly use these "care extenders" in a way that does not jeopardize patient safety. With continuing education and outreach, increasing numbers of Florida physicians are building these types of care teams in a way that will help them reach more patients without sacrificing quality.

Fourth, we must fully enact and continue the new programs that fairly reimburse family physicians for serving Medicaid patients. Just this summer, due to a policy change supported by the Florida Medical Association, many family physicians are no longer being asked to lose money when they see and treat Medicaid patients. This program must be continued and expanded to more of our state's family doctors. It will not only save tax dollars in the long run; it will (if administered correctly) encourage more family doctors to treat those Floridians who receive Medicaid.

Fifth and finally, we are working with lawmakers to implement the promise of new technologies via telemedicine. We have the opportunity to dramatically expand access to areas where there are too few doctors or where a second opinion is needed quickly. Our goal is to expand the use of telemedicine while ensuring high standards, protection against fraud and, of course, patient privacy. As with all technological innovations, this will take a great deal of hard work, thought and innovative thinking.

The Florida Medical Association takes our charge seriously. We recognize that the projected shortage of primary care and family care doctors is a very real concern to every Floridian. We will continue our work to grow the number of these doctors and expand access to care in a way that is safe and affordable for patients and physicians.

Dr. Neal P. Dunn has been a urologist in Panama City for 20 years. He is chair of the Florida Medical Association's Council on Legislation. He is also president and managing partner of Panama City Urology Center and Bay Regional Cancer Center and serves as the managing partner of the Florida Urologic Physicians Network.

Comments
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17