Monday, November 5, 2012

To Decrease Medical Costs We Must Expand Medical Student Positions

Utah is at a critical period in our access to affordable healthcare. Recent reports show that
we are one of the most under-served states in the county for Primary Care physicians.
This lack of patient access to our healthcare system results in higher medical costs,
increased waiting periods for patients, and in our more rural areas – forces patients to
travel long distances just to receive the attention they needs.

We have heard much in the news detailing what contributes to such high medical costs
in our healthcare system. One of the major contributors – and is a direct result of Utah
not having enough physicians – is the large amount of people that go to the Emergency
Room. Many of these patients see the Emergency Room as last resort – a “safety net”
even – to receive the medical attention they need. The vast majority of issues that our
Emergency Room patients face could be taken care of by Primary Care physicians, if
only our State had enough to serve our population.

ER care is expensive. However, if a patient has no other options and needs to be seen,
they have no other choice. We need more Primary care doctors to give patients the
opportunity to be seen and treated in outpatient clinics on a timely and affordable basis.

Here in Utah we are fortunate to have a highly rated Medical School at the University
of Utah. When I applied to the University Medical School twenty years ago, there were
102 positions for the first year class and Utah had a population of about 2 million. Today,
Utah has a population of nearly 3 million, an increase of over 30%, but the Utah Medical
school class was recently reduced to 82 positions, about a 20% decrease. To better serve
our community, we must rectify this disconnect and see that our desperate need for more
physicians and providers is met.

This reduction in positions at the University of Utah Medical School has resulted in
a great “brain drain” in our community – where many bright and capable students are
forced to look outside the state for Medical School, often to never return. Increasing the
medical school class size would allow us to retain more students and train them locally.
Studies have shown that medical students often choose to stay and practice where they
are taught. To help solve Utah’s desperate need for more Family Care physicians, we
must expand the class size of our local Medical School.

I recently met with Dr. Vivian Lee, a leader at the University of Utah Medical School,
and discussed plans and funding to increase the class size back to at least the previous
size. Estimated costs would be $12 million dollars, with a portion of that paid in tuition
by students. These costs for the increase in the class size at the University of Utah are
actually much lower than comparable per-student costs in other states. Part of the reason
for the lower cost in Utah is that we already have existing classrooms and teaching staff.
It would be funding well-spent as we could retain more of our own local students and
train more needed doctors to serve our growing population.

As an emergency room physician and a concerned resident of Utah, this is one solution
that I hope to propose as a State Senator to help meet our ever increasing health care
access needs in Utah. This is a common-sense measure that will benefit Utahans
immediately and in the long run.

Dr. Shiozawa is a family physician and emergency room doctor who is
running for State Senate District 8. He can be reached at (801) 230-3406.

Dr. Brian Shiozawa
3177 E. Fort Union Blvd
Cottonwood Heights
(801) 230-3406

1 comment:

  1. Wow, a very good, "common sense" idea that has never occurred to me before. I see the connection and I fully support it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.