A Publication of WTVP

Educating an expanding number of welltrained physicians is essential for improving the cost and quality of patient care and growing our regional healthcare economy.

The Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of about 63,000 doctors by 2015, with greater shortages on the horizon— 91,500 and 130,600 physicians by 2020 and 2025, respectively. An aging population and retiring baby boomer physicians are partly to blame. Then, add the demand created by the 32 million Americans who will get insurance coverage if the Accountable Care Act is fully implemented. Shortages are particularly acute in areas such as primary care, general surgery and psychiatry.

How will central Illinois maintain and advance the high level of healthcare it currently provides?

The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP) plays a critical role in educating and recruiting the physician workforce needed to provide medical care for regional patients and to power our healthcare economy. Some 40 to 45 percent of existing medical staff physicians either attended the University of Illinois for medical school or graduated from a UICOMP residency. But we need to do more, so we are working with our affiliated hospitals to address the significant physician workforce issues that are on the horizon.

How is UICOMP addressing these challenges? Together with Methodist Medical Center, UICOMP has begun a psychiatry residency. Currently, there are about 50,000 psychiatrists in the U.S.—a number the American Psychiatric Association says is already inadequate to serve all those who need help. Additionally, about half of currently practicing psychiatrists are over the age of 55, and many will soon retire. The new psychiatry residency has already helped recruit additional psychiatrists to our community and starting in 2015, four additional psychiatrists will graduate from the residency each year, providing behavioral healthcare for the region and the country.

The shortage of primary care providers is likely to be a particular challenge. The number of primary care providers is closely linked to the health of a community’s population because their work helps prevent disease or disease complications. Graduates of UICOMP residencies at both OSF and Methodist already make up about 50 to 60 percent of Peoria’s current primary care providers. Together with OSF, UICOMP is addressing the shortage of primary care providers by increasing the number of residents in pediatrics, obstetrics and internal medicine.

In addition, we are refocusing components of our education to emphasize prevention. At both the student and resident level, we have special programs that target training physicians for practice in rural communities, where shortages are most acute. UICOMP has a newly accredited stroke fellowship, also with OSF, to provide specialized physician training. A similar effort is underway to create a cardiology fellowship, which we hope will begin in July of 2013. Strokes and heart disease are common life-threatening diseases in older Americans.

But simply expanding programs is not enough. UICOMP is advancing central Illinois’ high level of healthcare by delivering innovative and advanced medical education, whether for tomorrow’s doctors or teaching those currently in practice. Competence is assessed by creating Objective Structured Clinical Exams, or OSCEs, which measure a student’s critical communication skills and professionalism using trained actors portraying patients. Students then practice telling the “patient” bad news, making “patient” discharge plans or recognizing the “patient’s” diagnosis.

The new Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center will be a tremendous opportunity to improve our healthcare workforce by taking teaching and learning beyond what’s now possible. If you can imagine a new device to benefit a procedure, engineers can build it and doctors will be able to test it in a safe, simulated environment. Take a real-life scenario and we will recreate it in the Virtual Operating Theatre or Virtual ICU so that all medical professionals may practice and learn from it.

Healthcare is a critical part of our regional economy. More importantly, our community deserves the best in patient care and physician access. Working with our partner hospitals, UICOMP will continue to evolve to meet the challenge of providing well-trained physicians that meet the needs of the region. iBi