5 cities with the most, fewest primary care providers

Nearly 78 percent of primary care physicians practice in urban regions, and because of the uneven geographic distribution of the healthcare workforce in general, many patients struggle to access primary care at all, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants tend to practice in more rural regions, according to AHRQ data. Nationwide, they accounted for 44 percent of providers who performed primary care services in 2016 to 2022, according to new research from Fair Health.

"A gain of 10 additional primary care physicians per 100,000 people is associated with an increase in life expectancy by 51.5 days," researchers wrote in the report. "Increasing the density of primary care providers in an area improves the detection and diagnosis of disease and reduces health disparities."

However, nationally, not only are primary care services surrounded by barriers to access for many, the U.S. is also struggling with a shortage of primary care providers. Fair Health, a data company, compared census population numbers with regional lists of primary care providers, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to gain clearer insight into the most underserved areas.

Here are the cities with the lowest ratio of providers to population:

  1. Rochester, Minn.
  2. Iowa City, Iowa
  3. Ann Arbor, Mich.
  4. Bloomsburg-Berwick, Pa.
  5. Columbia, Mo.

The U.S. cities with the highest ratios of primary care providers to population are: 

  1. Zapata, Texas
  2. Summerville, Ga.
  3. Winnemucca, Nev.
  4. Holland, Mich.
  5. Fernley, Nev.

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