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Sources Find Different Numbers of Active Physicians

Study compares projections of future physician work force using U.S. Census, AMA Masterfile

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Estimates from U.S. Census Bureau surveys find fewer older physicians remaining active compared with the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile data, according to research published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Douglas O. Staiger, Ph.D., of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and colleagues analyzed data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS) as well as the AMA Masterfile, and used recent findings to predict the future supply of physicians.

Between 1979 and 2008, the CPS estimated 67,000 fewer active physicians than the Masterfile in an average year. This was almost entirely due to estimating fewer active physicians ages 55 and older. The CPS estimated more physicians ages 25 to 34, averaging 17,000 more during the second half of the sample. When making projections for the year 2020, the CPS data predicts fewer active physicians (957,000 versus 1,050,000), with a smaller proportion of physicians ages 65 or older (9 versus 18 percent).

"The physician work force is one of the most critical factors that must be considered in current health care reform efforts and discussions. Having accurate estimates for determining not only the number of physicians, but also current and future physician work force requirements and capabilities for delivering primary and specialty care, will be essential for achieving and sustaining effective health care reform," concludes the author of an accompanying editorial.

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