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KHON2 News investigates critical doctor shortage, telemedicine as a possible solution

Date: November 2nd, 2018 in Care, External News, Faculty, JABSOM News, Workforce Development    Print or PDF

MD students in simtiki.

Pictured: JABSOM MD 2022 review a patient clinical case at the SimTiki Center. Deborah Manog Dimaya photo.

 KHON2 News reports on Hawaiʻi’s critical doctor shortage.

The state is currently short more than 700 physicians, according to the latest figures from the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) medical school’s Hawai’i Physician Workforce Assessment.

“We’re not keeping up with the increase in number of needed processionals to take care of our patients,” said Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).

Whether it’s older doctors retiring sooner, younger doctors being lured to the mainland by higher pay and lower cost of living– the shortage is expected to worsen by 2020. The situation is even more critical among the neighbor islands, which are experiencing shortages in all specialties including primary care.

It is not uncommon for patients fly to Oahu for surgeries and even childbirth.

“Many have to come a week or two, three or four weeks before deliver to provide the safest environment just in case something happens,” said Dr. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, JABSOM Graduate Medical Education Director. She adds, “trauma is a really big, really really serious challenge, also behavioral health, mental health even for children.”

Could Telehealth Medicine be a solution?
In a follow-up report, KHON2 looked at telemedicine as a possible solution to help with the physician shortage by allowing participating doctors to reach more patients through camera and screen rather than face to face.

According to the Hawai’i Physician Workforce Assessment, the percentage of physicians practicing telehealth/telemedicine rose from 2% in 2014 to 20.5% in 2018.

“Telemedicine has been described as the future of medicine for decades,” said Dr. Matt Koenig, JABSOM Associate Professor and Medical Director of Telemedicine for The Queen’s Health Systems.
At the Queen’s Health Systems, neurologists serve a total of nine hospitals on a stroke telehealth system.
“They actually activate the hospital before the patient arrives,” Koenig said, “The hospital pages us and we log on to the camera. When it works well, we actually see the patient roll into the door and we are able to start examining them immediately.”

Watch the full reports by KHON2 News: Doctor Shortage and Telemedicine
(Note, external links, including the videos above, are not controlled by JABSOM.)

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