As National Doctors’ Day was celebrated on March 30, Pennsylvania physicians said that instead of looking back, they need to be looking ahead and thinking about how the changing medical environment will impact the future of health care.
According to Bruce MacLeod, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED), while National Doctors’ Day provides a good opportunity to remember the past, the time has come to look forward.
“It’s almost ironic that shortly after National Doctors’ Day will prove to be one of the most historic days in regards to American health care expansion,” said Dr. MacLeod, referring to the deadline for citizens to purchase health insurance.
“The improvements in medicine that we’ve seen since its early days are truly amazing and should be applauded,” he says. “But it might be more exciting to think about the journey in front of us.”
Dr. MacLeod suggests several aspects of Gov. Tom Corbett’s Healthy PA plan begin to play an important role as the governor’s plan addresses numerous health care issues, including:
- Improving access to care for the uninsured and underserved
- Increasing residency slots and student loan forgiveness programs
- The development of a controlled substances database
- Moving forward with health care technology and telemedicine initiatives
Lauren Kramer, a medical student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and vice chair of PAMED’s Medical Student Section Governing Council, explains why loan forgiveness programs could help increase access to primary care in Pennsylvania.
“The cost of a medical education, particularly when combined with debt from undergraduate school, can be overwhelming,” said Kramer. “When you’re graduating with that much debt, you’ll likely look for higher paying specialty jobs. Unfortunately, primary care doesn’t have that same reputation, but combined with a loan forgiveness program, primary care becomes a bit more attractive.”
She adds that more residency slots in Pennsylvania are also needed and would encourage more recent grads to stay in the state.
Gus Geraci, MD, PAMED’s chief medical officer, also notes that, looking forward, the use of technology is needed to enhance the delivery of care in underserved locations. He suggests telemedicine is one aspect of Healthy PA needed sooner rather than later.
“It takes years to train a medical doctor,” said Dr. Geraci, who recently chaired Pennsylvania’s eHealth Initiative. “Until we can get more into underserved areas, telemedicine could bring the physician to those patients.”