By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
Minority, rural, inner city, the uninsured and other underserved patient populations already have more limited access to locum physicians than many other patient demographics. The predicted rise in demand for new physicians in the coming years may further compromise access to medical care for these patients. Community clinics in California, for example, are already encountering challenges finding primary care providers to serve their “culturally diverse” patient populations*.
Health disparities related to uneven access to care have also been pinpointed in underserved populations. A study by the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that when people become eligible for Medicare, their racial, ethnic and socioeconomic differences are less of a factor in positive or negative outcomes for chronic diseases and risk factors such as high blood pressure, elevated blog sugar and high cholesterol. With fewer doctors to attend to underserved patients in the near future, health care access or not, we may not see such consistent patient outcomes.
Similar to how Medicare evens out the playing field, the ‘Annals’ study theorizes that universal healthcare would have the same effect, especially on underserved populations. The tradeoff, unfortunately, may be (depending on how the program is executed) that strict government regulation of health care may deter more physicians than it attracts. Again, how the government executes universal medicine will go a long way in determining that.
In the meantime, Locum Tenens physicians or travel doctors can go a long way in serving minority and other underserved populations simply by responding to the call for physicians and accepting an assignment.
*New America Media
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.