NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Shortages of Pediatric Specialists Vexes Parents

January 30, 2003

The number of pediatric specialists -- doctors who focus on the medical problems of children, from gastroenterologists to cardiologist and orthopedic surgeons -- are declining, much to the dismay of parents. Experts attribute the trend to reduced support for specialist fellowships and lower reimbursement for specialists.

  • The proportion of pediatric residents choosing advanced training in specialties has fallen to 21 percent from 33 percent in 1986.
  • Pediatric specialists are crucial because children's anatomy and physiology are not the same as adults and require special attention which those who practice on adults can't supply.
  • Fortunately, a growing number of high-tech resources are available to parent who can't find local specialists -- such as telemedicine, which allows doctors to use monitors to view patients hundreds of miles away, and traveling clinics equipped with high-tech diagnostic and treatment facilities.
  • Although telemedicine often can't substitute for a live visit when it comes to treatment, it can save people from having to travel for an initial consultation.

It is also getting easier to search for hospital programs and pediatric specialists online. The Web site for the Children's Hospital Association -- -- offers a feature that allows people to search for hospitals via subspecialty.

As telemedicine grows, even many rural hospitals are getting portable teleconferencing equipment including video cameras and Internet hookups.

Source: Laura Landro, "Why You Can't Get a Doctor for Your Kid," Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2003.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB1043873402350962704-search,00.html


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