Overview of practicing physicians in Wyoming
Wyoming Medical Board Grants set licensing record in 2009, but fewer physicians choose to practice full-time in Wyoming
by Wyoming Board of Medicine
December 23, 2009
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A record number of physicians received Wyoming medical licenses in 2009, according figures released today by the Wyoming Board of Medicine. Despite increased physician licensure over the past five years, however, the figures also reveal that newly-licensed physicians are not practicing full-time in Wyoming communities at the same rate as currently-licensed physicians.
Reduced red tape means more physicians licensed in Wyoming
The Board granted Wyoming medical licenses to 301 physicians in 2009 – an increase of 26% over 2008, and 64% over 2007. The Board’s President credits action of the Wyoming Legislature earlier this year and updated regulations as key factors in the growth.
"With the help of the Wyoming Legislature, we have substantially cut the red tape in getting a license to practice medicine in the state," said Board President James Anderson, M.D., of Casper. "These changes have contributed to the increase in the number of physicians seeking licensure in Wyoming.
"Before the changes to the Wyoming Medical Practice Act and the Board’s rules and regulations, every applicant for a medical license was required to come to Wyoming to have a face-to-face interview with a Board member," Anderson said. "This was an unreasonable burden for physicians from around the country who practice telemedicine and otherwise may never set foot in the state, or who want to help a Wyoming hospital cover a short-term physician coverage. We felt it was an unnecessary impediment to improving and expanding medical care in Wyoming, and the Legislature agreed."
Anderson emphasized that while the licensure process has been streamlined, the Board remains focused on its primary goal: protection of the public. "Although we have streamlined the process, we are still getting all of the same information about applicants," Anderson said. "In fact, the Legislature gave the Board an important new tool – the ability to perform a criminal background check on an applicant on the rare occasion when it is appropriate and necessary."
The increase in the number of physicians seeking a Wyoming license appears ready to continue unabated in 2010, Anderson said. More than 100 physicians currently have license applications at various stages of processing with the Board of Medicine, and applications come into the Board’s office in Cheyenne on a daily basis.
Fewer new physicians are practicing full-time in Wyoming
Unfortunately, while licensing of physicians continued to rise in 2009, the percentage of newly-licensed physicians choosing to practice full-time in Wyoming is well below the current average for all Wyoming-licensed physicians. Of 2,805 physicians are currently licensed to practice medicine in Wyoming, 1,074 – about 38% – report that they are engaged in full-time practice in the state. Of the 301 physicians licensed in Wyoming in 2009, however, only 53 or about 18% say they are presently engaged in full-time practice in the state. The cumulative average for physicians licensed since 2005 practicing full time in Wyoming is somewhat better – 27% – but still lags the 38% figure for all physicians licensed to practice in the state.
"The bottom line is that despite increasing the number of physicians licensed to practice in Wyoming, it appears fewer new doctors are practicing full time in the state," Anderson continued. "The overall trend is not good for our communities."
Changing medical practice models account for much of the change. "We are seeing continued expansion of telemedicine practice in Wyoming," said Anderson. "For example, over the past several years national teleradiology practices have been getting their physicians licensed here so they could read studies performed at Wyoming hospitals while sitting at their home computers nearly anywhere in the world. Regional medical practices are now continuing that trend."
Another growth area is the licensing of physicians for short-term, or "locum tenens," practice in Wyoming. "With the small numbers of physicians in many Wyoming communities, the absence of even one doctor can create a big gap in coverage," Anderson said. "Wyoming hospitals and medical practices are making good use of physicians brought from out-of-state for periods ranging from a weekend to several weeks or even months. Locum tenens practice is a great short-term tool for addressing physician shortages and the need for physician to be able to take personal leave. The bad news is that locum tenens physicians only come to our communities for a limited time, and then move on to their next assignment."