The AAFP's Robert Graham Center has unveiled a medical school mapping program that allows users to gauge the role of medical schools in promoting and sustaining primary care access within states, regions and localities.
The free Med School Mapper tool(www.medschoolmapper.org) can be used to identify counties in which a school's graduates currently practice, the number of physicians in each county who have graduated from a particular school, medical schools that provide the most graduates to each county, and the percentage of graduates who are practicing in rural or underserved areas.
"We designed this program to help people understand the role of medical schools in their state in making sure they have access to the doctors they need, in the places they need them the most," said Andrew Bazemore, M.D., M.P.H., assistant director of the Graham Center, in a prepared statement(www.graham-center.org). "People may not think about it much, but the medical schools in their state have a great deal of influence on the number and type of doctors residents have access to.
"In short, this application was built to help state policymakers, legislators, and education and health care workforce planners better understand how each school currently contributes to their local area, to communities in greatest need and to the specialties at the greatest risk of shortage."
Bazemore stressed that understanding the role of medical schools in meeting each state's need for physicians is crucial to allocating federal and state resources for medical training. Although multiple studies demonstrate that patients with access to primary care demonstrate improved health outcomes and decreased costs, 30 percent of Americans report having trouble gaining access to primary care physicians. Meanwhile, physician workforce studies predict a shortage of at least 35,000 primary care physicians by 2020.
"One of the ideas behind the Med School Mapper is to identify medical schools that are particularly prone to producing graduates in areas of high societal need," said Bazemore. "Primary care is one of those areas of high need."
The Robert Graham Center developed the Med School Mapper in conjunction with Health Landscape LLC and with financial support from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. The mapper itself is based on the AMA Physician Masterfile and utilizes geographic information systems software.