FRIDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- Fewer than 25 percent of new
doctors in the United States go into primary care, and only about 5
percent open offices in rural areas, according to a new study.
There is a critical shortage of primary care doctors in the
nation. These findings suggest that the number of new primary care
doctors falls short of what's needed and will not solve the growing
shortages in underserved areas in the near future, said the
researchers at the George Washington University School of Public
Health and Health Services.
"If residency programs do not ramp up the training of these
physicians, the shortage in primary care, especially in remote
areas, will get worse," study lead study author Dr. Candice Chen,
an assistant research professor of health policy, said in a
university news release.
"The study's findings raise questions about whether federally
funded graduate medical education institutions are meeting the
nation's need for more primary care physicians," she added.
The researchers examined the career choices of nearly 9,000
physicians who graduated from 759 medical residency institutions
from 2006 to 2008. Three to five years after graduation, only 1 in
4 of the physicians worked in primary care. However, that figure is
likely overestimated because it includes physicians who are
hospitalists, Chen said.
She and her colleagues also found that 198 out of the 759
medical residency institutions produced no rural doctors during the
study period, and that 283 of them produced no doctors practicing
in Federally Qualified Health Centers. These clinics provide care
to low-income patients and others and are often located in remote
areas or poor urban neighborhoods.
The study appears online in the journal
In the United States, about 66 million people live in rural
areas or urban neighborhoods with too few primary care doctors or a
shortage of primary care in clinics. That means that about 1 in 5
Americans lacks access to this kind of essential care and could
develop more serious health problems as a result, according to
The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia offers tips for
choosing a primary care doctor.