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PHYSICIAN SUPPLY: About 1 doctor per 1,000 population

Each year, the National Center for Health Statistics takes a survey of nonfederal physicians in office-based practice called the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.  This sample survey results in estimates of the number of practicing physicians, which are reported as counts of physicians per population.  Here are some interesting national figures for the period 2009-2010:

  • 472 generalist physicians / million population (or 0.472 / 1,000 population)
  • 636 specialist physicians / million population (or 0.636 / 1,000 population)
  • 1,663 visits to generalists / 1,000 population / year
  • 1,719 visits to specialists / 1,000 population / year
  • 3,521 visits / generalist physician / year
  • 2.704 visits / specialist physician / year

Generalists are defined as including general practice, family practice, internal medicine, and pediatrics.  Specialists include all other physicians. 

Conclusions that can be drawn from the above?  There are more specialists than generalists.  There are more visits to specialists than to generalists.  However, generalists have a higher rate of visits per year.

This report also compared generalists and specialists as far as willingness to accept new patients — about the same across all payer types EXCEPT for Medicare.  Specialists were more likely to accept new Medicare patients.  Generalists were twice as likely to work evening or weekend hours.  Generalists were also much more likely to have same-day appointments available than specialists. 

Source: Hing, E., and Schappert, S.M.  Generalist and specialty physicians: supply and access, 2009-2010.  NCHS Data Brief;105, Sept. 2012.  Click here for the full text free: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db105.pdf  Posted by AHA Resource Center, (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org

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