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Strategic issues for managing the future physician workforce

Strategic issues for managing the future physician workforce

Baxter Health Policy Review 2: 149-182

Physician workforce issues were among the most hotly debated components of the recent national health care reform effort. What are the United States' goals for its physician workforce? Will market forces be adequate to achieve these goals, or will regulatory intervention be needed? This chapter provides public and private policymakers with a framework for arriving at reasonable conclusions about this important subcomponent of national health policy. Physician supply and requirements are discussed first. A picture of the current U.S. physician workforce is presented, together with details of its size and the physician-to-population ratio. Future growth of the physician workforce is projected, and future requirements are discussed along with the potential for both surpluses and shortages in some areas. Graduate medical education, a crucial topic in this discussion, is covered. The issue of substitution of nonphysician providers for physicians is considered next, with special attention paid to the capabilities of nonphysician providers in performing certain tasks, as well as the productivity and cost-effectiveness questions involved. While the physician supply in the United States may be adequate overall, gaps in service and problems with access to services persist in many rural and inner-city areas. The geographic distribution of the physician workforce and the balance of subspecialists and generalists are addressed. Other topics of discussion include the need for greater minority representation in the physician workforce and the evolving role of the physician executive. Finally, this chapter ends with a wrap-up of policy considerations and themes central to the new delivery system of the twenty-first century. These themes include market forces versus regulation, cost containment and workforce cost-effectiveness, the global role of the United States, and nonfinancial barriers to access to care, as well as the impact of technology and the role of physician scientists.

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Accession: 047444819

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PMID: 11066259

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