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Panelists discuss future of rural primary care at Rural Health Journalism 2014

Len Bruzzese/AHCJMark Richardson, dean of the OHSU School of Medicine

Rural areas have a disproportionate need for primary care physicians but, according to a panel of physicians at Rural Health Journalism 2014, that need is not being met.

In fact, 44 percent of rural areas in the U.S. are experiencing a shortage of primary care practitioners, said Andrew Bazemore, M.D., M.P.H., director, Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, American Academy of Family Physicians.

This sobering statistic illustrates what Mark A. Richardson, M.D., MScB, M.B.A., dean, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, called “geographic maldistribution” — urban areas having more active doctors per 1,000 people than rural areas.

Bazemore emphasized the importance of primary care, noting that in comparison to 10 other developed nations, the U.S. ranked lowest in both primary care and health outcomes.

Richardson drove the point home with some sobering information on the state of primary care in the U.S.: While there are 249 patient care physicians for every 100,000 Americans, there are only 106,000 primary care physicians. Almost 27 percent of those providers are over age 60, so their numbers are only expected to drop in the coming years.

So how can rural primary care get a boost?

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