66% of counties with most COVID-19 cases lack infectious disease physician

About 208 million Americans are living in counties with no or very few infectious disease physicians, and many of these areas have been hit hardest by COVID-19, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers determined the density of infectious disease physicians in every U.S. county using 2017 Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data. They also used aggregated data from the CDC and local public health agencies to plot the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases in each county as of May 12.

Four study findings:

1. Of the 3,142 total counties in the U.S., 79.5 percent did not have a single infectious disease physician.

2. Among 785 counties with the highest burden of COVID-19 cases, 66 percent did not have an infectious disease physician working in the county.

3. About 9.9 percent of counties had an infectious disease physician density below the national average of 1.76 physicians per 100,000 population. 

4. Only 10.5 percent of counties had an infectious disease physician density above the national average.

"The deficits in our [infectious disease] physician workforce today have left us poorly prepared for the unprecedented demand ahead," study authors said, highlighting telemedicine as a key strategy for expanding access to this speciality.

To view the full study, click here.

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