A 2007 presentation on the shortage of geriatricians, led to a proposed study of the adequacy of Virginia’s educational pipelines to meet the projected need for certain health care professionals. This is the final report of that two-year study, conducted by the Joint Commission on Health Care (JCHC). In 2009, an interim report was submitted and published as RD 118.
Projections indicate that Virginia’s population and percentage of older residents will increase over the next two decades, increasing further the demand for health care services. At this time, Virginia’s most critical physician shortages are in primary care, geriatric care, psychiatry, emergency medicine, and general surgery. These shortages are exacerbated by the maldistribution of physician practices which tend to locate in Virginia’s more urban localities. The need for additional dentists and mental health professionals was identified also.
There are a number of avenues Virginia could take to address shortages and maldistribution of health care professionals, including:
• Providing increased funding for State-supported family medicine programs,
• Funding State loan repayment programs (that were recently defunded),
• Increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates,
• Encouraging medical schools to enroll students more likely to provide services in underserved areas,
• Educating the physician workforce about geriatric care issues through physician groups and the Board of Medicine, and
• Expanding telemedicine services and payment for such services.
With these alternatives in mind, 19 policy options were presented for consideration. JCHC members voted in support of 16 options (as delineated in the final report).
On behalf of the Joint Commission and staff, I would like to thank the numerous individuals who assisted in this study, including representatives from Argosy University, Carilion Clinic, Department of Health Professions, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, George Mason University, Hampton University, INOVA Health System, Medical Society of Virginia, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Psychiatric Society of Virginia, Radford University, Regent University, Shenandoah University, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, University of Appalachia, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Consortium, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Psychological Association, and Virginia Tech.