The Physician Shortage & Where They’re Needed Most

In Career Advice, Education, Physician
November 7, 2017

The Physician Shortage & Where They're Needed Most

With the physician shortage looming, patients in some states are becoming ever more susceptible to longer wait times and a decline in outcomes.

Due to the aging U.S. population and the upcoming retirements of older physicians, the nation is currently facing a physician shortage that could have serious repercussions in the future. And with the 1997 cap on Medicare support for graduate medical education (residency programs), a bottleneck was created for the workforce.

But what does Medicare have to do with graduate medical education? You see, medical residents cost hospitals through stipends, salaries, benefits, and institutional overhead costs, and Medicare, through the Direct Graduate Medical Education (DGME) payment system, compensates teaching hospitals for Medicare’s share of the costs directly related to the training of residents, but does not may payments related to the education of medical students.

Furthermore, the cost to teaching hospitals of training a resident averages $100,000+ per year, and Medicare will typically only pay around $40,000. Knowing that, there are roughly 110,000 residents in training per year with costs to teaching hospitals coming to roughly $13 billion per year, and Medicare only covers about $3 billion of that. As part of the solution, the U.S. needs to train, at minimum, 3,000 new doctors per year by lifting the cap on federally funded residency training programs.

Key Findings About the Physician Shortage & Supply

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges 2017 State Physician Workforce Data Report, in 2016:

  • There were 271.6 active physicians per 100,000 citizens in the U.S., with Massachusetts having the highest density at 443.5 and Mississippi having the lowest at 186.1. The states with the highest physicians-population density are consolidated in the Northeast.
  • There were 91.7 active primary care physicians to every 100,000 population in the U.S., with Massachusetts having the highest density and Mississippi the lowest.
  • There were 7.8 active general surgeons per 100,000 population. Maine and Vermont had the highest density of surgeons with 12.0 while Utah and Nevada had the lowest with 5.7 and 6.1, respectively.
  • 24.5% of active physicians were international medical graduates (IMGs) nationally, but individual states varied. New Jersey and New York had the highest percentage of IMGs with 38.7% and 37.2%, respectively, while Idaho and Montana had the lowest with 5.1% and 5.2%, respectively.
  • 34.6% of active U.S. physicians were female. More than 1/3 of active physicians in in 28 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia were female, and Utah had the lowest percentage of female physicians with 23.8%.
  • 30.9% of active physicians were age 60 or older. New Mexico had the highest percentage (37.0%), and Utah had the lowest with 26%.

Interactive Map: Where Physicians Are Needed Most

Hover over the map below to get state-by-state information about the physician need in each:

 

States Ordered by Physician Need

The following is is ordered by which states have the least physicians per 100,000 citizens to the those with the most. Those toward the top of the list are in the most need for new physicians while those closer to the bottom have the most physician-to-population density:

StatePhysicians per 100,000Total Physicians
1. Mississippi 186.15,562
 2. Idaho 192.63,241
 3. Wyoming199.01,165
 4. Nevada 200.15,884
 5. Arkansas 203.76,088
 6. Oklahoma 205.38,057
 7. Utah 209.46,389
 8. Iowa 211.46,627
 9. Alabama 212.410,329
 10. Texas 219.461,132
 11. Kansas 219.46,380
 12. Georgia 225.223,215
 13. Indiana 226.515,025
 14. South Carolina 227.111,269
 15. Kentucky 228.910,158
 16. Montana 230.32,401
 17. North Dakota 232.11,759
 18. Nebraska 232.14,426
 19. South Dakota 235.52,038
 20. Arizona 235.816,345
 21. New Mexico 241.45,023
 22. North Carolina 249.325,295
 23. Tennessee 250.016,627
 24. Louisiana 250.711,737
 25. West Virginia 255.14,671
 26. Wisconsin 260.015,026
 27. Florida 260.453,685
 28. Virginia 262.422,072
 29. Alaska 264.31,961
 30. Missouri 267.016,268
 31. Washington 269.319,623
 32. California 269.8105,907
 33. Delaware 272.32,592
 34. Colorado 278.315,422
 35. Illinois 280.635,927
 36. Michigan 284.128,206
 37. Ohio 289.533,621
 38. Minnesota 291.816,105
 39. Oregon 294.412,050
 40. New Jersey 294.926,378
 41. Hawaii 304.54,350
 42. New Hampshire 308.14,113
 43. Pennsylvania 311.839,863
 44. Maine 324.54,320
 45. Connecticut 345.112,341
 46. Rhode Island 356.93,770
 47. Vermont 357.52,233
 48. New York 365.172,095
 49. Maryland 377.822,731
 50. Massachusetts 443.530,213

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