Further complicating the current shortage of primary care physicians is the fact that access to physicians is particularly limited in rural areas of the country. Now, a new online mapping tool, known as the AMA Health Workforce Mapper, can highlight those areas with remarkable precision.
Designed primarily as an advocacy tool, the mapper(www.ama-assn.org) is an outgrowth of the AMA Geographic Mapping Initiative, which supports the creation of maps that demonstrate the practice locations of physician and nonphysician health care professionals throughout the United States. The new tool provides a comprehensive view of the entire U.S. physician population, and the interactive format makes it easy to identify where physicians of various specialties, including primary care, and their nonphysician counterparts are practicing.
The AMA partnered with the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care and HealthLandscape to develop health workforce maps on a state-by-state basis and build the interactive tool. Information for the mapper was compiled using 2013 AMA Masterfile physician data, which includes more than one million physicians. CMS data from the same year was used to identify 10 types of nonphysician professionals, including nurse practitioners, psychologists, midwives and naturopaths.
"The significance of this tool is that, for the first time, you can look at physician and nonphysician data at the same time," said Sean Finnegan, M.S., Health Geographic Information Systems Research Manager for the Graham Center. “We've never before visualized the data sets together on the HealthLandscape platform."
Currently, users can obtain information about physicians in 10 specialty areas, including "primary care." In the near future, the map will add data about an additional 11 specialties, including family physicians.
In addition to specialty, users can filter physicians and nonphysicians by gender and can select physicians by age, practice type and employment type.
Data are available for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and users can view population-to-provider ratios at the state, county or metropolitan area level. The map also can indicate where nearby hospitals, interstate highways or other relevant features appear in relation to a practice. Searches performed can be saved in PDF format for printing.
The mapper is available to all AMA members and can be accessed by logging in to the AMA website. A more limited version showing only nonphysician practice locations is available to the general public.