US needs 21% more primary care residency slots to fill shortage

By 2015, the U.S. will need 1,700 addition primary care residency slots to fill the projected primary care physician shortage, according to a recent study published in Annals of Family Medicine.

The study compiled data from a number of sources including the 2010 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, the U.S. Census Bureau, the AMA Masterfile and the American Osteopathic Association to project demographic changes, baseline numbers of physicians, retirees and the annual production of medical residents.

Based on their calculations, researchers found 44,000 primary care physicians will be needed by 2035. Current production rates will not meet this demand of 44,000 physicians, leading to a shortage of more than 33,000 primary care physicians, according to the report.

This means the U.S. will need 21 percent more primary care residency slots to produce enough physicians to fill the shortage, according to the report. This number is subject to change, the report notes, based on a number of variables including retirement age and new care models, which could change the expected ratio of patient population to physicians. For example, if the ratio of patient population per primary care physician shifted down 10 percent, the U.S. would need more than 3,000 more primary care residency slots by 2035.

"More research is needed to determine whether and how new payment models, such as accountable care organizations, will affect primary care recruitment and retention," the authors wrote.


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