Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee under Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) held a hearing focused on ensuring that the medical workforce has the training necessary to take advantage of emerging medical technologies. In recent years, new technologies like virtual reality, telehealth, and electronic health records have appeared as a potential solution to problems facing both small medical practices.
“Emerging technologies in health care can be the great equalizer allowing smaller, independent practices to treat more people and cut the cost of doing business,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “But to do this, we need to ensure proper training. Whether through new and innovative ways of training physicians during school or upskilling nurses as they progress in their careers, providers need this training to avoid confusion and uncertainty in the face of change.”
By 2030, it’s estimated that the U.S. could be approximately 100,000 physicians short of what’s needed to serve the population adequately. This physician gap is expected to exacerbate existing health care shortages in underserved communities and continue the decline of small medical practices. Increased utilization of emerging medical technologies is a potential solution to eliminate coverage gaps and allow small medical practitioners to more effectively serve their communities. Developments like telehealth services, robotic surgery, and health information technology have the potential to make health care more efficient, less costly, and give doctors more access to areas that are currently being neglected.
Harnessing the power of technological advancements in health care will require new workforce development initiatives to ensure doctors are appropriately trained. This is especially true for small medical practices, which are often owned by older physicians who may need increased upskilling to adapt to new technology. Up to this point, medical and nursing schools have not widely incorporated formal curricula in virtual care and telehealth.
The hearing gave Members the chance to engage with medical professionals about new technologies and current efforts to educate the health care workforce on their use.
“Traveling to orthopaedic appointments can present significant challenges for patients that telehealth can help alleviate,” said Dr. Matthew Conti, Orthapedic Surgery Redient at Hospital for Spcial Surgery in New York, NY. “Telehealth in orthopaedics can range from routine postoperative care for patients to remote viewing of a patient’s injuries and radiographs. By allocating resources to regions with specialist shortages, Congress can help alleviate the costs for both providers and patients.”
“Telemedicine can benefit institutions, health care systems, and providers by expanding access to care and improving the quality of care in both rural and urban settings,” said Dr. Ingrid Zimmer-Galler Founding Clinical Director of the Office of Telemedicnie at John Hopkins School of Medicine. “The challenges and burdens on patients from rural areas to access care include transportation and time required for travel which can be significantly alleviated with virtual care.”
“Throughout my experience, I have seen revolutionary technologies incorporated into the nursing curriculum,” said Dr. Nancy Fahrenwald, Dean and Professor at Texas A&M University, College of Nursing. “From electronic health record platforms to simulation labs and adaptive learning to virtual reality, these technologies expand critical thinking skills in a safe, simulated environment, facilitate learning and growth for the nursing students, and improve patient-centered care.”
“Whether it be the concentration of health services, lack of access for rural America, or the impending doctor shortage, technology can solve many of the issues within our health care system,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both side of the aisle to address these workforce challenges in the health care industry.”
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