UNMC study finds a critical shortage of primary care physicians in rural Nebraska

Dec 5, 2012

A new study by UNMC’s Center for Health Policy found that 11 Nebraska counties have no primary care physician.

The study compared the number of active primary care physicians in Nebraska to national data from the American Medical Association. It also looked at four specialties within primary care: obstetrics/gynecology, family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics. 65 Nebraska counties are in a primary care shortage area, according to the report.

Jim Stimpson, director of the Center for Health Policy in UNMC’s College of Public Health and co-author of the study, says it’s a challenge to recruit physicians to practice in rural areas. But Stimpson says there are options available to provide care, including the use of nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants to their full extent. Another option is to use telehealth and telemedicine in rural areas.

Stimpson says Nebraska will need 1,685 primary care doctors to meet the demand for services when the Affordable Care Act is implemented in 2014. Right now, there are 1,410 of those physicians statewide.

Without more doctors, Stimpson says rural Nebraskans can expect longer wait times for appointments, more travel, and higher costs to see a primary care physician.