May 12, 2009

Senate Bill Would Address Doctor Shortages

Crapo says bipartisan bill improves access to critical care

Washington, DC. - Legislation introduced today in the U.S. Senate would increase access to critical care in intensive care units (ICUs) throughout the country. The Patient-Focused Critical Care Enhancement Act, sponsored by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) would expand the critical care workforce and establish best practices to maximize the efficiency of existing critical care personnel.

Critical care doctors provide care to critically ill or injured patients who require the undivided attention of an attending physician. In 2006, the Health Resources and Services Administration estimated that 4,300 critical care doctors will be needed to meet demand throughout the country - but only 2,300 are currently available. A recent study by the Leap Frog Group showed a direct correlation between access to critical care and improved cost and quality outcomes.

"Although no one wants to be in a situation that requires a critical care physician, it is important that there be a steady supply of these important professionals," Crapo said. "Critical care physicians work on severely ill or injured patients. We also face workforce shortages throughout the entire healthcare industry. With such looming possibilities, it is important that Congress acts to protect patients across the country."

"Access to critical care can mean the difference between life and death for many patients suffering from severe conditions," said Whitehouse. "By identifying best practices and expanding our network of critical care physicians, we can improve America's health and wellness, while also reducing costs."

The Patient-Focused Critical Care Enhancement Act authorizes the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to fund new demonstration projects to optimize how we provide critical care services to Medicare beneficiaries and to train critical care physicians in family-centered approaches to care delivery. The bill also expands funding for the use of telemedicine in the delivery of critical care services throughout rural and medically underserved areas and seeks to recruit not less than 50 providers of critical care services annually into the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program.