Graham Center One-Pager

Family Physicians and the Primary Care Physicians Workforce in 2004



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Am Fam Physician. 2005 Jun 15;71(12):2260.

  Related Editorial

In 2004, there were 91,600 family physicians (FPs) and general practitioners (GPs) and 222,000 primary care physicians actively caring for patients, one for every 1,321 persons. These primary care physicians represent the largest and best-trained primary care physician workforce that has ever existed in the United States.

In 2004, there were 620,627 active physicians whose major professional activity was direct patient care, one physician for every 472 persons in the United States1(see accompanying table2). Of these physicians, 91,627 were FPs or GPs, representing almost 15 percent of the physician workforce—approximately one FP or GP for every 3,202 persons. These numbers contrast with the beginning of the twentieth century, when there were about 132,000 physicians, approximately one for every 590 persons, with more than 85 percent of the workforce composed of GPs.2 In 2004, the FP workforce consisted of 78,045 allopathic physicians and 13,582 osteopathic physicians, about 17 percent of whom were international medical graduates.

Family physicians work with other primary care physicians. In 2004, there were 85,293 general internists, of whom 67 percent were U.S. medical school graduates, and 45,139 general pediatricians, of whom 72 percent were U.S. medical school graduates. Thus, there was one general internist for every 2,556 persons 18 years or older and one general pediatrician for every 1,670 persons younger than 18 years. In 2004, there were 222,059 primary care physicians actively caring for patients in the United States, or one primary care physician for every 1,321 persons. A majority of these physicians completed a rigorous three-year training program following medical school, which was designed to prepare them for general medical practice.

Active Direct Patient Care Physicians in the United States in 2004

FPs GPs FPs and GPs Primary care* Other subspecialists Total

Physicians in specialty

76,650

14,977

91,627

222,059

398,568

620,627

Persons per physician

3,827

19,589

3,202

1,321

736

472

Physicians per 100,000 persons

26

5

31

76

136

212


FP = family physician; GP = general practitioner.

*—FPs, general internists, general pediatricians, and GPs.

Information from reference 2.

Active Direct Patient Care Physicians in the United States in 2004

View Table

Active Direct Patient Care Physicians in the United States in 2004

FPs GPs FPs and GPs Primary care* Other subspecialists Total

Physicians in specialty

76,650

14,977

91,627

222,059

398,568

620,627

Persons per physician

3,827

19,589

3,202

1,321

736

472

Physicians per 100,000 persons

26

5

31

76

136

212


FP = family physician; GP = general practitioner.

*—FPs, general internists, general pediatricians, and GPs.

Information from reference 2.

The United States has the largest and best-trained primary care physician workforce that it has ever had. Given the investment made to develop this workforce, and the benefits that accrue to communities from their work, these physicians represent a precious national resource.

note: The information and opinions contained in research from the Graham Center do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the AAFP.

Adapted from the Graham Center One-Pager #30. Green LA, Fryer GE, Ruddy GR, Dodoo MS, Phillips RL, McCann JL, et al. Family physicians and the primary care physicians workforce in 2004. June 2005. Available online at: http://www.graham-center.org/onepager30.xml. From the Robert Graham Center: Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, 1350 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 201, Washington, DC 20036 (telephone: 202–331–3360; fax: 202–331–3374; e-mail: policy@aafp.org).

 

REFERENCES

1. Green LA, Dodoo MS, Ruddy G, Fryer GE, Phillips RL, McCann JL, et al. The physician workforce of the United States: a family medicine perspective. Washington, D.C.: Robert Graham Center, 2004.

2. AMA Masterfile. Analysis by The Robert Graham Center, 2004.

3. Colwill J, Cultice J. The generalist physician supply: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Unpublished manuscript. Prepared for the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME), 2004 HRSA.


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