How to Bolster the State’s Health Care Workforce
The coronavirus crisis has taught us many important lessons, but here is perhaps the most important of all: Our medical professionals need more support. They need additional resources and flexibility to do their jobs effec- tively. We must empower them to meet any challenge that comes their way, both now and in the future.
What does flexibility look like? Taking advantage of technological advances, such as telemedicine, would allow doctors to serve patients remotely. Telemedicine leverages the internet and video calls to increase access to care and reduce costs, boosting patient satisfaction at the same time. And for hazards like COVID-19, it is a vital component in slowing the spread of infection.
Pennsylvania is one of only eight states without a com- prehensive legal structure governing telemedicine. That prevents providers from fully investing in the service and offering the savings and convenience of telemedicine to patients. Unfortunately, a legislative attempt to provide such a framework—Senate Bill 857—was vetoed last month by Governor Tom Wolf.
While the telemedicine bill represented a huge potential step forward for Pennsylvania’s health care sector, this isn’t the end of the road. Wolf and state legislators should work together to prioritize patients over politics and hammer out an effective comprehensive telemedicine reform now.
Beyond telemedicine, there is still more to be done to relieve medical professionals who are stretched too thin,
specifically primary care providers. In Pennsylvania, there are almost 1,000 potential patients for every primary care provider. Empowering additional professionals to meet this demand will set up existing providers to succeed— without demanding inhumane sacrifice and unending work hours—and significantly bolster the medical workforce.
Thankfully, Pennsylvania has already taken some import- ant steps to allow more care providers to do what they do best—and that should be applauded. Policymakers lifted restrictions on the number of hospitals in which a physician can practice, expanded access to telemedicine, allowed out-of-state health professionals to practice in Pennsylvania, and empowered pharmacists with greater flexibility to serve those in need.
Safe innovations can expand Pennsylvania’s capacity to defend against a health crisis—and we should seek such opportunities wherever they arise. These policies aren’t about politics—they’re about keeping our citizens safe and healthy.