Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Primary Care is Growing (sort of)

The American College of Physicians reports that fewer American physicians are entering primary care specialties. However, the overall number of primary care providers is increasing due to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and IMG's:
Although fewer Americans become primary care physicians, primary care providers increased per capita thanks to international medical graduates and the growth in physician assistants and nurse practitioners. And the overall growth in primary care provided more efficient and less expensive health care, according to testimony given to Congress last week.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress' research arm, provided testimony to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. In the past decade, the per capita number of primary care doctors, including internists, pediatricians, family practitioners and general practitioners, rose an average of 1.17% annually.

The per capita number of primary care physicians grew faster than that of specialty physicians, 12% vs. 5%, respectively. The Associated Press reported from the GAO's testimony that fewer American medical graduates choose primary care, but international medical graduates (IMGs) covered the gap. GAO figures show that in 2006 there were 22,146 American doctors in residency programs in the U.S. specializing in primary care, down from 23,801 the previous year. IMGs made up 1 in 4 new U.S. physicians, according to the AP.