Archive for Friday, December 20, 2013

Despite recruitment efforts, Lawrence still short on primary care doctors

Family doctor Bonnie Cramer checks to see if her patient Cassie Mayo's lymph nodes are swollen as an indicator of bronchitis during a visit on Thursday at Family Medicine of Baldwin City. Cramer, a family doctor, is among the newest of Lawrence Memorial Hospital's recruits.

Family doctor Bonnie Cramer checks to see if her patient Cassie Mayo's lymph nodes are swollen as an indicator of bronchitis during a visit on Thursday at Family Medicine of Baldwin City. Cramer, a family doctor, is among the newest of Lawrence Memorial Hospital's recruits.

December 20, 2013

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Lawrence continues to face a long-term shortage of primary care doctors, despite efforts to recruit them to the community.

The number of family practice and internal medicine doctors in Lawrence each increased by just one from 2008 to 2013.

"When you look at who's leaving, who's retiring, who's moving, who's going part time — we have really made almost no progress," Sherri Vaughn, a family doctor who recruits physicians for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, told the hospital's Board of Trustees at a recent meeting. "It's a daunting task."

Still, Lawrence isn't unique in this regard, and is actually facing less of a shortage than many places across the state and country, particularly those in rural areas. However, the state has already classified Douglas County as having an inadequate number of primary care providers to serve its low-income and Medicaid-eligible populations.

Vaughn said the shortage is also a concern because of the importance of primary care doctors to providing "downstream revenue." If, for instance, a Lawrence resident has to go out of town to see a primary care physician, that doctor will likely refer to specialists and labs in that community. "It is the feeder to everything else," she said. She noted that the number of hospitalists, who are primary care doctors who only see patients in the hospital, went from seven in 2008 to 10 now, which she called adequate.

One of the hospital's most recent recruits is Dr. Bonnie Cramer, who started at Family Medicine of Baldwin City in June.

"A big factor for me and probably for a lot of people is you want to have a good balance between your work life and your personal life," said Cramer, who is married with two kids. "We have a great hospitalist program and pediatricians. That allows me to focus my time on the clinic in Baldwin and not have to drive back and forth to the hospital."

LMH's long-term strategic plan calls for strengthening the relationship between the hospital and its medical staff, including adding a physician liaison position in 2014 to foster relationships between doctors and hospital administration. Hospital officials say they also intend to follow through on improvements identified in their annual physician satisfaction survey, namely enhancing the functionality of their electronic health record system.

"To me, personally, I feel that building a robust community of primary care doctors is critical to the quality of life in our community," said John Bullock, a member of the LMH Board of Trustees. "And it seems that increasing the synergy between that group of doctors and what the hospital offers helps insure the success of the hospital, which I also feel is vitally important to our community objectives."

Asked if the recruitment could be seen as self-serving for the hospital, Vaughn noted that she has helped set up interviews for candidates with private family clinics in Lawrence.

"We're trying to really focus on the community, not just our own practices," she said.

Comments

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 5 months ago

Writing as a patient, I am impressed by the electronic communication between the doctors and the hospital. Your doctor, the main hospital, LMS all have all of your medical records so if their is an emergency they have all the information they need to take care of you. I am very happy with the level of medical care that I get and just hope that it will continue. At my age my health is one of my major concerns.

Lawrence Morgan 1 year, 5 months ago

I am working with a Chinese doctor from Beijing who is an excellent doctor, but whose pronunciation of English is usable, but not great. So instead he works as a researcher at UCSF in San Francisco, trying to improve his English, when he would much prefer to be practicing as a doctor - in Kansas, for instance.

We often don't allow medical professionals from many other countries to practice in this country. So I see it in great part as the fault of the American Medical Association, who won't allow these doctors to practice here, as well as doctors here who want their salaries to be more important than their practice, and therefore they don't allow for many new doctors from other countries in.

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