POCATELLO – Dr. Bill Woodhouse, associate dean for Idaho State University Graduate Medical Education and Professional Relations for the Kasiska Division of Health Sciences, has recently been installed as the president of the Idaho Medical Association.
An inauguration took place in August in Sun Valley.
Woodhouse has been involved with medicine organizations for more than 25 years, representing his colleagues in the Wyoming Medical Society before coming to Idaho in 1994. Shortly after, he began working with the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians Board, where he served until 2013. During that time, he was president from 2002-2003. Woodhouse was also involved as the Idaho delegate to the American Academy of Family Physicians from 2007 to 2012.
In 2010, Woodhouse was elected as the District 7 (Southeast Idaho) trustee for the Idaho Medical Association, and then re-elected after a four-year term. He then followed the association’s leadership track, which moved him to President-Elect in 2017, and most currently, to President.
Woodhouse says he remains involved with IMA and other professional medical associations in order to represent the interests of my patients and colleagues, and share their views as to what the approach should be of organized medicine, for specific issues as they arise.
“The IMA board is a very hard working bunch of professionals that care an awful lot about their patients and take a great deal of pride in representing their colleagues,” Woodhouse said. “I’m honored by the opportunity.”
Access to health care and insurance are topics Woodhouse said he wants to address as IMA president.
“Probably the most important thing is that we still have 60,000-70,000 Idahoans who have no access to health insurance and health care,” Woodhouse said. “There are patients who can’t get the medicines we prescribe, can’t get the medical treatment they need, and they end up in the hospital. IMA strongly supports the Medicaid expansion to cover the gap.”
This “gap” Woodhouse mentions, is made up of people in Idaho whose income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to purchase health insurance from the exchange. The Affordable Care Act originally required Medicaid expansion to include the gap population nationwide, but the Supreme Court decided that states could not be required to do this. Idaho is one of 17 states who have not yet extended this coverage.
The IMA and its members have contributed more than $70,000 to the campaign to promote Medicaid expansion.
“Physicians are all in on closing the gap on Proposition 2,” Woodhouse said. “The money was donated to Idahoans for Healthcare, specifically to support passage of Prop 2, which would expand Medicaid to cover those under 100 percent of federal poverty level.”
Patients who are in this gap “just walk away from their care and they suffer from it, and so then we see them in the emergency rooms, and then they go bankrupt because they can’t pay for it,” he said.
Another health care access issue Woodhouse and the IMA are working to improve is the physician shortage that exists in the state. Idaho ranks 49th in the nation for physicians per capita, and 49th for residency slots in the nation.
“IMA supports graduate medical education residencies and fellowships,” Woodhouse said. “This support stands to benefit ISU to expand the family medicine residency training there, and also a psychiatry residency in partnership with the University of Utah.”
A third focus for Woodhouse and the IMA will be decreasing physician burnout, and the ever increasing administrative burden that physicians face on a day to day basis. He says it is now estimated that physicians spend less than half of their time seeing their patients because they are working on prior authorizations, electronic medical records, documentation, with insurance companies, and other administrative duties, and that has taken some of the joy out of medicine for a lot of physicians.
“People don’t feel as cared for anymore,” Woodhouse said. “It’s not just a burden as far as taking up our time, but it also makes it so that if we can’t jump through those hoops, the patients end up getting stuck with the costs and so it matters to patients that this gets dealt with. It’s a detraction from why we went into medicine, which is to take care of people.”
Woodhouse said the IMA is now focusing on the sources of this administrative burden, and proposing changes to those administrative practices, such as legislative action, action with different agencies, government agencies, working with insurance companies directly, pharmacy benefits, and patient advocacy teams.
Woodhouse said that his involvement in various professional medical organizations benefits the ISU residency program.
“First of all, this is used to teach my residents about organized medicine and this experience is important to them as they go out into practice and they are able to support and protect patients,” he said. “We’ll bring resolutions back to the residents and say ‘what do you think of this?’, and then take their responses back to the delegates. Many of the issues are things that pertain directly to the family medicine residents and so having a liaison between these two organizations helps.”
There is currently one resident who sits on the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians and Idaho Medical Association boards. Residents and medical students also participate in caucuses at the IMA House of Delegates.
“This is part of their education, so having a faculty member involved in that is important, not just for the Department of Family Medicine but also for the Kasiska Division of Health Sciences as a whole,” Woodhouse said.
One ISU family medicine resident, Zach Halverson, brought up an idea for a resolution to the IMA House of Delegates, and once passed, it was then taken it to the Idaho Board of Medicine. Halverson’s suggestion eventually led to a change in rules for licensure of medical residents. Woodhouse says many Idaho students end up in medical schools outside of the United States. Before this rule change, when they came back to Idaho for residency, they could not apply for state licensure until after they graduated from residency. Those licenses can now be obtained after the second year of residency, improving access to care, especially in smaller towns and rural areas.
“These are issues I have worked for throughout my professional life, this is a role I relish,” Woodhouse said. “By coincidence, this is going to be a big year for graduate medical education. It’s fortunate that these issues are high priority now. We need to get back to our patients and caring for them and take care of the administrative burdens that are tearing us away from our patients, because that is not good for us or them.”
Rex Force, vice president for health sciences at ISU added, “Dr. Woodhouse is a tremendous asset to our health professions team at ISU. He has worked tirelessly to improve the education model for our students, and to help provide the citizens of Idaho improved access to health care.”