AAMC Calls for 15 Percent Increase in Medical School Enrollment
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has called for medical schools to increase their enrollment by 15 percent within the next 10 years. The increase should be targeted to areas of expected population growth, and could be aided by removing restrictions on the number of Medicare-funded residency and fellowship positions. Currently, the number of medical school applicants stands at about 35,000––down 26 percent from 1996. By the AAMC’s calculations, a 15 percent enrollment increase would mean the graduation of an additional 2,500 physicians each year. The AAMCs statement is based on new evidence predicting a shortage of physicians in the next few decades, contrary to the surplus forecast by reports in the 1980s and 1990s. Demands on health care are expected to rise owing to continuing population growth in the United States, the aging of the Baby Boomers, and the imminent retirement of approximately 38 percent of practicing physicians. Given the time needed to train future doctors, the AAMC recommends that efforts to increase enrollment get underway as soon as possible, if the increased demands are to be met. For more information, go to http://www.aamc.org/newsroom/pressrel/2005/050222.htm.
Graham Center Report Emphasizes Quality Not Quantity
A new report by the Robert Graham Center concludes that the focus should be on the quality of care provided rather than the total number of family physicians in the workforce. The report, “The Physician Workforce of the United States: A Family Medicine Perspective,” was chartered by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and compares previous studies, dating back to 1981, with the estimated upcoming need for family physicians according to Future of Family Medicine project models of care. Results of the report show that the current number of family physicians is adequate to meet demand, assuming a doctor-patient ratio of 1 to 1,200. The report makes several recommendations for the future, including revision in financial models to sustain the new model of family medicine; increased training in family medicine residencies, focusing on care of older and chronically ill persons as well as evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention; increased number of allopathic medical students; and evaluation of workforce policies in view of the dependence placed on family physicians by rural persons and other underserved populations. The full report is available online at https://www.graham-center.org/PreBuilt/physician_workforce.pdf.
Family Medicine Residency Matches Continue to Increase
Figures released in March by the National Resident Matching Program show that 82.4 percent of family medicine residencies offered this year were filled, compared with 78.8 percent in 2004. The number of residents matching into family medicine was up slightly from last year (2,292 compared with 2,273 in 2004) although the number of positions on offer decreased (down to 2,782 from 2,884 in 2004). For the eighth year in a row, the number of U.S. seniors matching into family medicine residency programs waned (from 1,198 in 2004 to 1,132 in 2005), while international student interest continues to grow.
Mary E. Frank, M.D., Mill Valley, Calif., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, welcomed the increased fill rate. “Studies clearly demonstrate that the higher the ratio of primary care physicians to population, the better the health outcomes and the lower the health care costs,” she stated. Frank also called on congress to support family medicine and “help get safe, quality care to all Americans.” For more details on Match 2005 visit https://www.aafp.org/match.
CHiT Survey Concludes EHRs Approaching Affordability
The report of a recent survey found that while electronic health records (EHRs) still represent a significant purchase for primary care doctors, they are approaching affordability for many small practices. The survey was conducted by the AAFP’s Center for Health Information Technology (CHiT) to broaden available information about the usage and pricing of EHR products, and about the companies who produce them. Thirty-six of the 50 EHR vendors in the Partners for Patients Initiative participated in the survey, answering questions on their marketing data, user base, new sales, and company demographics. The survey indicated that the EHR market, while still young, is beginning to mature, as evidenced by a rapid growth in sales and drop in price. The complete report is available on the CHiT Web site at http://www.centerforhit.org/x983.xml.
A new feature on the CHiT Web site allows physicians shopping for an EHR system to seek recommendations from those who have purchased one. Physicians can search by state, practice size, and product to locate similarly situated doctors who have been through an implementation in their own practice and are willing to be contacted for advice. The site is updated continually and can be accessed at http://www.centerforhit.org/mem/cgi-bin/findfriend.pl.
AAFP Consolidates News Publications and Launches AAFP News Now
On April 4, the three news publications produced by AAFP (FP Report, AAFP Direct, and AAFP This Week) will be consolidated into one––AAFP News Now. Continual coverage of AAFP News Now will be available online, at https://www.aafp.org/news-now, and the publication also will be distributed as a weekly e-mail. At the end of each month, AAFP members will receive a printed version of AAFP News Now by mail. The change in format was supported by nearly 90 percent of AAFP members, but subscribers can opt out of the mailing list if desired. For more information, visit https://www.aafp.org/x33165.xml. AAFP members can choose which versions of AAFP News Now to receive at https://www.aafp.org/mysubscriptions.
AAFP-Nominated Family Physician Joins USPSTF
Michael LeFevre, M.D., M.S.P.H, a family physician from Columbia, Mo., has been named as one of five new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members. Dr. LeFevre previously served as co-chair of an AAFP/American College of Physicians panel that developed clinical guidelines on the management of atrial fibrillation, and was a member of the AAFP Commission on Clinical Policies and Research. He was nominated for the task force position by the AAFP. The USPSTF was originally developed in 1984 to evaluate clinical research and preventive measures; at present, its members are revisiting earlier recommendations and making updates and amendments, in addition to assessing new topics. Their recommendations can be found online at http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstfix.htm, and are a regular feature in American Family Physician.
AMA Awards Family Physician for Pride in Profession
Chicago-based family physician Coleen Kivlahan, M.D., M.S.P.H., was one of four physicians presented with the 2005 American Medical Association (AMA) Pride in the Profession award in March. The Pride in the Profession Awards are part of the AMA’s annual Excellence in Medicine honors in association with the Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative, and are presented to “exemplary physicians” who work in underserved areas or contribute their time to voluntary causes or public service. Dr. Kivlahan is the first non–AMA member to be recognized with this award.