Any measure that would allow more foreign-trained physicians into the U.S. to practice would likely have the biggest impact, Ms. Shewmaker says. But she acknowledges that legislation is a slow-moving pursuit. “I’m not hearing a lot of traction on any of these bills, but that’s also because the conversation is being dominated by other things,” she says.
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Explore This IssueAugust 2017
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Shortage = Dire Patient Consequences
Sarah Doaty, MD, a rheumatologist in Alaska and a former member of the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee, says she is confident the ACR is doing all it can to find solutions. The shortage can have devastating consequences for patients.
“Part of the challenge in treating patients where there is a shortage of providers is that patients are often presenting with more advanced disease, and it’s hard to get patients to achieve remission,” says Dr. Doaty, who has a patient who lives about two hours away—by plane—because there is no closer rheumatologist.
She says patients are often taking only anti-inflammatory drugs for years, because the primary care physicians managing their conditions are uncomfortable prescribing disease-modifying drugs.
“There’s just no way,” she says, that “[primary care physicians] can keep up with all the classification criteria and the guidelines.”
Thomas R. Collins is a freelance writer living in South Florida.