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Area Health Education Centers
Expansion of Residency Training Programs at Federally Qualified Community Health Centers
Family Medicine Department, Definition of
Family Physicians, Workforce and Residency Education
Medical School Graduates
Medical Student Debt Relief
National Health Service Corps
Personal Medical Home
Primary Care, Definition of
Rural Health Care in Medical Education
Student Choice of Family Medicine, Incentives for Increasing Student Interest
FAMILY PHYSICIAN WORKFORCE REFORM:
Recommendations of the American Academy of Family Physicians
(AAFP Reprint No. 305b)
- To speak with a unified and cohesive voice regarding the development of the family medicine workforce on state and national levels.
3. Review demographic changes in the U.S. population and adjust workforce projections accordingly.
4. Review demographic changes in the family physician workforce, such as physician disengagement from clinical practice, part-time practice, and clinical reentry.
5. Identify needed changes in healthcare financing and medical education funding to meet stated priorities.
6. Address the ongoing and significant changes in medical school class size and graduate medical education funding policies, and their anticipated impact on family medicine workforce.
7. Review trends in general internal medicine, general pediatrics, nurse practitioner and physician assistant workforce and identify how those trends influence family physician workforce and distribution.
8. Discuss the impact of increased healthcare coverage on family physician demand, utilization, and access.
9. Provide data that will be accessible to state chapters, medical schools and other constituents.
11) Updating AAFP Workforce Policy is not only timely but also necessary because of the national discussion about health care delivery, physician practices, and patient access. Other important considerations include a rise in medically underserved populations, a new federal administration with an agenda to address health system reform and a new model of enhanced health care delivery. These changes require a workforce policy with greater specificity in its recommendations and present an opportunity to positively impact both national and state health policy. Addressing the national health workforce is a recognition of health care as a public good and that maintaining a sufficient number of well-trained and appropriately deployed family physicians is in the public’s best interest.2
12) Projecting the appropriate family medicine workforce composition and distribution must be part of the discussion of high-quality and efficient health care delivery; it also must be part of an agreement on the population health outcomes goals to be achieved. The AAFP has most recently commissioned studies of the health workforce,3,4 which have resulted in policy statements. The need to have a sound, data-driven workforce plan with clearly articulated policy recommendations is critical to advocacy initiatives during times of health system change.
14) Recruitment, training, and retention constitute the longitudinal progression of the development of the family physician workforce. Differing factors influence each of these three components. Similarly, institutions with different missions influence various aspects of the overall physician workforce pipeline. Other variables that influence workforce include workforce trends of other healthcare disciplines and socioeconomic trends that influence the public’s ability to access healthcare resources.
15) The U.S. health care system is characterized by excessive cost and substandard population health outcomes. There are multiple calls for health system reform. A condition for any meaningful reform is a clearly articulated health workforce policy.
16) One durable finding is that primary care is essential to any efficient health care system. In order for the United States to control costs, reduce health disparities and deliver high-quality care, the primary care workforce must be strengthened and deployed in a manner consistent with the health needs of the population. Health reform without systematically strengthening the primary care base is unlikely to succeed.6
17) This policy statement goes beyond projecting a specific number of physicians, but rather describes key issues of national workforce coordination, fiscal reform, and delivery systems that are essential to contain health care spending and improve health outcomes.
19) The demographics of the U.S. population will continue to change. Along with an increase in the overall population, the number of older Americans will continue to increase as people live longer, and they will have more chronic diseases. Cultural and ethnic changes will continue as the population becomes increasingly diverse. The U.S. physician workforce must be prepared to care for a larger, increasingly diverse and older population with an increasing number of chronic medical conditions.
20) The health care systems of countries now dedicated to universal coverage for and access to health care are based on a foundation of generalist physicians, usually family physicians, at a higher proportion than is now present in the United States. These countries, as well as the more cost-efficient, closed-panel health maintenance organizations (HMOs) in the United States, tend to use fewer subspecialist physicians and a higher proportion of generalist physicians.8
21) The increasing generalist-specialist imbalance in the United States undermines the nation’s ability to achieve universal health care access and limits its ability to meet needs of underserved rural and urban populations. Primary care services provided by limited specialists and sub-specialists who have had little or no primary care training or continuing education can be expected to be both costly and inefficient, because limited specialists tend to use technologies and procedures of their specialties more than generalists. Furthermore, because of their narrower educational focus, limited specialists will more frequently seek consultation for patients who have common acute and chronic illnesses. Services may be fragmented and duplicated by visits to multiple specialists, and preventive services may not be provided adequately.9-11
22) Many nationally recognized groups, including the Council on Graduate Medical Education, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Health Professions Commission, have called for 50 percent of U.S. medical graduates to enter generalist careers.12-15 In 2006, the AAFP completed a comprehensive workforce study that identified the ideal ratio of family physicians to population calculated from a needs-based model.3 However, many other factors, such as the demographic changes of the U.S. population, new models of healthcare, achieving recommended health screenings, aging physician demographics and practice patterns, and health reform measures that may include expanded insurance coverage will affect the workforce need.
23) As an example, in April 2006 Massachusetts passed a state bill designed to provide health coverage for its 600,000 uninsured. Despite being the state with the highest ratio of primary care physicians to population (125.6 physicians per 100,000), the act resulted in an immediate crisis of health care access.16 Significant delays in care have resulted with some patients waiting more than a year for a simple physical examination.17
24) Recent projections from multiple workforce reports and publications predict major shortages in primary care providers, especially for the adult population. The American College of Physicians has expressed overt concern regarding the decline in the number of general internists.18 In 2008, a study in JAMA revealed that only 2 percent of medical students planned to pursue general internal medicine.19 The AAMC reports an impending “crisis” in provider access, and even the organizations of mid-level providers are struggling with trends toward specialization and away from primary care.20 Recent trends in graduate medical education suggest that the number of general pediatricians, general internists and even AOA trained family physicians produced by their training programs is dropping.21 With the declining numbers of other providers of primary care, the number of ACGME trained family physicians must be increased to meet the public’s needs.
25) The results of the 2006 AAFP Workforce Study found that, in order for all in America to achieve adequate access to a primary care physician, 139,531 family physicians will be needed by the year 2020. The results of the 2006 AAFP Workforce Study reported that the nation will need approximately 39,000 more family physicians by 2020 in order for all Americans to achieve access to a primary care physician. In 2008, Colwill and others have predicted that population growth and aging will result in a deficit of up to 44,000 adult care generalist physicians by 2025.22 Subsequent analysis and the more-rapid-than-expected decline in the production of general internists suggest that shortages of adult care generalists will be even worse than predicted, and that family physicians will be relied upon to close the bulk of that gap.23
26) A determined number of training positions in U.S. health professions education outside of residency pathways to certification should be available annually for exchange visitors whose costs are paid by their home countries and who return to practice in their home countries upon graduation.
27) Both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools are rapidly increasing the pipeline of physicians both through expanding class sizes and opening new medical schools. Attention also must be paid to ensure that the increasing number of graduates will provide the kind of care most needed.
28) Federal funding for graduate medical education should reflect physician workforce policy, with preferential funding for training primary care physicians, particularly family physicians, and concomitantly less funding for the training of other physicians. All payers of health care services should contribute to paying the costs of medical education. A public-private entity should be established to allocate funding for residency positions among training programs based on the nation’s workforce needs. Preferential funding should be given to residency programs that have a track record of producing generalist physicians, physicians located in and or serving rural and inner-city populations, or physicians from underrepresented minorities.
29) The physician workforce is dynamic and changes in physician work patterns can be anticipated. Increasing numbers of physicians choosing to leave practice, return to practice after periods of clinical inactivity, part-time practice, and other factors will affect the number of physician FTEs (full-time equivalents) providing patient care.24
30) A critical issue central to the AAFP’s current recommendations is the identification of the family physician as the provider of choice for primary care services for Americans, rather than abdicating the role of primary care provider to others, as it appears other adult primary care specialties are doing. Given the extent and breadth of training, the quality outcomes and cost efficiency of practice, as well as the demands of delivery systems and satisfaction of patients, family physicians will be at a competitive advantage and will fill critical roles in the health care marketplace. Current recommendations are intended to support efforts to ensure health care access for all in America and to meet the needs of underserved rural and urban populations.
31) The delivery of emergency medical care in the US is an essential public service that requires a cooperative relationship among a variety of health care professionals. The Institute of Medicine Report on Emergency Care and others confirm the critical role of family physicians along with emergency medicine specialist in the emergency care workforce. The AAFP supports family physicians as essential and qualified providers of emergency care in a variety of settings, especially in rural and remote communities.
32) The annual number of Nurse Practitioners (NP) graduating is declining by 4.5 percent every year.25 The number of Physician Assistant (PA) graduates, on the other hand, continues to rise (http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/reprint/21/5/174.pdf); however only a third are now entering primary care practice (www.aapa.org). While PAs and NPs remain important contributors to the primary care workforce and are an important part of the team-based approach within the Patient-Centered Medical Home model of care, their contribution will be affected by the decline in the number of graduates from NP programs as well as an increase in the percentage of PAs and NPs who practice in subspecialty disciplines rather than primary care will.25
National Workforce Planning:
34) There should be established a public-private entity to allocate funding for graduate medical education positions in accordance with the national health workforce commission priorities.
35) The AAFP should regularly assess and report on the family physician workforce, including attention to GME positions, the number of family physicians, their geographic distribution,24 demographic information (including racial and ethnic diversity), practice patterns, and market share.*
Specialty Distribution of the Physician Workforce:
37) In a changing health policy landscape, the future contribution of general pediatrics and general internal medicine to primary care remains unclear. To support efforts to ensure health care access for all Americans, to meet the needs of underserved populations, and to meet the increasing demands for heath care services of an aging population, at least 30 percent of ambulatory patient care in the United States will need to be provided by family physicians. This will require an expanded workforce of 40,000 or more family physicians by 2020.
Funding/New Financial Models:
39) The United States should increase payments to family physicians for clinical services in order to attract them to and sustain them in the new model of family medicine, and to promote improvement in health care delivery outcomes.*
40) New physician payment models must be immediately developed, tested, and implemented in order to remedy the unsustainable income gap between primary care physicians and other specialties. State and federal insurance programs should immediately undertake a series of demonstration projects in payment reform that emphasize primary care, underserved and rural practice. Care coordination fees should be developed, tested, and implemented.
41) All payers of health care services should be contributing to the costs of medical education.*
42) High-quality ambulatory practice will be a major pathway to reducing overall health care expenditure. Approximately two-thirds of family medicine training takes place outside of the hospital. Two-thirds of CMS Graduate Medical Education funding should track directly to residency programs to support training in the ambulatory setting.27
43) Collaborative rural training sites should be prioritized under expanded Title VII funding. Physicians trained to provide care in collaborative clinical training practices that include nursing, mental health providers, social workers and pharmacists, among others, will result in improved multi-disciplinary team-based care that is essential to delivering high quality preventive and chronic care services. Rural sites have unique challenges to developing these models, and federal funding should assist with eliminating barriers to the development of collaborative, multidisciplinary training programs.
44) Training programs that produce physicians from underrepresented minorities, or those whose graduates practice in underserved communities or serve rural and inner-city populations should be preferentially funded.*
45) National funding for graduate medical education should reflect population health needs in the United States, preferentially funding training for needed generalist physicians, particularly family physicians, with concomitantly less funding for the training of other physicians. Specifically, additional training positions will need to be funded for family medicine rather than for other specialties.*
Medical School Expansion:
47) Loan repayment programs for primary care careers should be significantly increased to eliminate medical school debt as a barrier to choice of careers in primary care.28
48) Medical schools must be funded with appropriate incentives to address the public’s physician workforce needs. Financial incentives to medical schools that consistently produce higher numbers of primary care physicians should be developed. Understanding the time it takes to adjust a teaching and training model, the incentives should be modified on a five-year needs-based model.
49) Medical schools should be encouraged to develop admissions policies that identify and recruit those students most likely to pursue careers in primary care.28
50) All medical schools should manage their recruitment efforts to attract students most likely to select career paths and practice locations that will improve the current state of geographic, demographic, and specialty mal-distribution of both types and numbers of physicians across the nation.
51) As medical schools expand their class sizes, a portion of the new slots should be dedicated to students who plan to choose family medicine or other primary care careers.
53) Family medicine residencies should prepare family physicians for the evolving demography of the U.S. population, with special attention to care of the older adult, health disparities, and the management of complex patients with chronic illness. The Patient-Centered Medical Home model should be implemented in all family medicine residency programs.*
55) Strategies to improve access to health care for the 56 million people who live in geographic Health Professional Service Areas (HPSA’s) and Medically Underserved Populations (MUP) areas must be employed. Elimination of HPSAs will require a comprehensive approach that includes training more family physicians in rural settings, expanding opportunities for students to trade medical school debt for service, expansion of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and improving physician payment for rural practice.
56) The AAFP supports policy that acknowledges the role of family physicians as providers of emergency medical care, especially in rural and other community hospital settings that depend upon family physicians as part of a comprehensive approach to addressing the nation's need for access to emergency care.
57) Physician compensation models for underserved practice locations (HPSAs, MUPs and Medically Underserved Areas) should be developed, tested, and implemented.
58) Primary care nurse practitioners and physician assistants should be practicing in integrated practices with primary care physicians utilizing the team-based Patient-Centered Medical Home model.
Community Health Centers:
60) Develop a Senior NHSC program. In addition to training new family physicians, retaining existing senior physicians and redeploying them to areas of need is an understudied strategy. This special program would retain experienced physicians who would otherwise retire, and employ them in areas of need.
61) Streamline linkage of Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding to the development of “Educational Health Centers” in association with CHCs to ensure that higher proportions of family physicians complete training in rural and underserved sites. Family Medicine residents who train in CHCs are more likely to continue to care for underserved populations.27
63) New physician payment models for providing geriatric care under the Medicare program should be developed, tested, and implemented.
64) There should be an increased emphasis on the recruitment of a diverse student population reflecting those most likely to care for rural, underserved, and elderly populations, and who more closely resemble the racial and ethnic make-up of the U.S. population.*
International Medical Graduates
66) A determined number of training positions should be available for exchange visitors who plan to return to practice in their home countries upon graduation.* The national health workforce commission (reference paragraph 32 above) should study and make recommendations on this issue.
- Testimony before the Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Related Issues Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives. Jeanne M. Lambrew, PhD, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. March 5, 2008. Data based on National Center for Health Statistics, Health United States, 2007. Atlanta:Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007)
- “Out of Order, Out of Time: The state of the nation’s health workforce.” Association of Academic Health Centers, 2008. www.aahcdc.org.
- “Family Physician Workforce Reform As Approved by the 2006 Congress of Delegates.” Recommendations of the American Academy of Family Physicians, October 2006.
- Green LA, Fryer GE, Ruddy GR, Dodoo MS, Phillips RL, and McCann JL. Family physicians and the primary care physician workforce in 2004. Am Fam Physician. 2005 Jun 15;71(12):2260.
- 2008 Physician Specialty Data Book. AAMC Center for Workforce Studies. November 2008.
- A. Goroll, U.S. Senate Testimony. Mar 12, 2009.
- Graham R, Roberts RG, Ostergaard DJ, Kahn NB, Pugno PA, Green LA. Family Practice in the United States: A status report. JAMA. 2002;288:1097-1101.
- Starfield B, Shi L, Macinko J. Contribution of Primary Care to Health Systems and Health. The Milbank Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 3, 2005 (pp. 457-502).
- Rivo ML, Saultz JW, Wartman SA, DeWitt TG. Defining the generalist physician’s training. JAMA 1994: 271(19): 1499-1504.
- Rosenblatt RA, Hart LG, Baldwin LM, Chan L, Schneeweiss R. The generalist role of specialty physicians. JAMA 1998: 279(17): 1364-70.
- Greenfield S, Nelson EC, Zubkoff M. Variations in resource utilization among medical specialties and systems of care: results from the medical outcomes study. JAMA 1992: 267(12):1624-30.
- “Patient Care Physician Supply and Requirements: Testing COGME Recommendations.” Council on Graduate Medical Education Eighth Report. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Health Resources and Services Administration publication HRSA-P-DM 95-3. Rockville, M.D.: 1998.
- Pew Health Professions Commission. Critical Challenges: Revitalizing the Health Professions for the Twenty-First Century. The Third Report of the Pew Health Professions Commission, San Francisco, CA: December 1995: 21.
- Cohen JJ, Whitcomb ME. “Are the recommendations of the AAMC’s task force on the generalist physician still valid?” Academic Medicine 1997: 72(1): 13-16.
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Press Release. Nominations for 1996 Grants. Princeton, NJ: April 28, 1995.
- AAMC State Physician Workforce Data Book. Center for Workforce Studies, Washington, DC. December 2007.
- 01/11/09 Washington Examiner. Available at: www.washingtonexaminer.com
- American College of Physicians, The Impending Collapse of Primary Care Medicine and Its Implications for the State of the Nation’s Health Care, January 30, 2006
- Hauer KE, Durning SJ, Kernan WN. Factors Associated with Medical Students’ Career Choices Regarding Internal Medicine. JAMA 2008; 300(10):1154-1164)
- Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Center for Workforce Studies – Physician Workforce Research Conference - 2020 Vision – Focusing on the Future , May 4-5, 2006, Washington, DC
- National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) – Results and Data: 2009 Match Washington, DC: March 2009
- Colwill JM, Cultice JM, Kruse RL. Will Generalist Physician Supply Meet Demands Of An Increasing And Aging Population? Health Affairs 2008; 27(3):w232-w241)
- Personal communication, Jack Colwill, June 2009.
- http://depts.washington.edu/uwrhrc/uploads/Aging_MDs_PB.pdf The Aging of the Primary Care Physician Workforce: Are Rural Locations Vulnerable? WWAMI Rural Health Policy and Research Centers, June 2009.
- McCann JL, Phillips RS, O'Neil EH, Ruddy GR, Dodoo MS, Klein LS. Physician assistant and nurse practitioner workforce trends. Am Fam Physician. 2005 Oct 1;72(7):1176.
- S. Wartman, Senate Testimony, Committee on Finance discussion on Health Care Reform. March 12, 2009.
- Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry. Health Resources and Services Administration. Minutes of Meeting, April 20, 2009.
- Specialty and Geographic Distribution of the Physician Workforce: What Influences Medical Student & Resident Choices? Funded by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. The Robert Graham Center: Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. March 2, 2009.
- “Joint Principles of the Patient-Centered Medical Home.” http://www.pcpcc.net/content/joint-principles-patient-centered-medical-home. American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College of Physicians (ACP), American Osteopathic Association (AOA). February 2007.
- Access Transformed: Building a Primary Care Workforce for the 21st Century. August 2008. National Association of Community Health Centers, Robert Graham Center, The George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services.
- A Code of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health Care Professionals: The Melbourne Manifesto. Wonca Working Party on Rural Practice. Adopted at 5th Wonca World Rural Health Conference Melbourne, Australia. 3 May 2002.
- Area Health Education Centers
- Expansion of Residency Training Programs at Federally Qualified Community Health Centers
- Family Medicine Department, Definition of
- Family Physicians, Workforce and Residency Education
- Medical School Graduates
- Medical Student Debt Relief
- National Health Service Corps
- Primary Care, Definition of
- Rural Health Care in Medical Education
- Student Choice of Family Medicine, Incentives for Increasing Student Interest