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Study Warns of Looming Physician Shortage in Michigan


EAST LANSING, Mich. Aug. 9 -— Michigan patients may be facing a shortage of physicians to choose from in the near future, according to a new study released today by the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS).

Factors pointing to a shortage of nearly 6,000 physicians by 2020 include the aging baby boom generation, the anticipated retirement of older physicians, and the changing demographics and practice patterns of physicians in Michigan and across the nation.

“There may be growth in the demand for physicians services that will not be fully met,” said MSMS President Alan Mindlin, MD, a Pontiac ophthalmologist. “An adequate supply of physicians of all types is central to the overall health and stability of Michigan’s health care system.”

The medical society’s report, conducted by Public Policy Associates of Lansing, compiled a detailed analysis of Michigan’s current physician supply and forecasted the supply and demand for physicians in Michigan out to the year 2020.

The study showed that Michigan’s supply of active physician likely will remain relatively flat over the next 15 years, fluctuating between 30,000 and 30,500 actively practicing physicians. Demand will grow, however, as Michigan’s older population increases, current physicians retire, and younger physicians strive to balance work and family. About 36,200 physicians may be required by 2020, which translates into a potential undersupply of as many as 6,000 physicians.

Medical schools in Michigan and across the nation already are exploring ways to increase enrollments over the next few years.

“Unfortunately, there are no quick or easy solutions,” Doctor Mindlin said.

“Expanding enrollments will require an additional commitment of public funding at a time when Michigan is facing serious financial difficulties and federal agencies are looking to hold the line or even reduce expenditures that supplement medical education,” Doctor Mindlin said.

Even if enrollments are expanded, he said, larger medical classes will not solve this problem unless the current graduate medical education cap under Medicare is lifted.

In conjunction with this new study, MSMS is working with the Michigan Health Council and the state of Michigan to develop a survey of all physicians to measure the number of hours physicians provide in direct patient care, professional activities, and retirement plans. Final results will be available in late 2005.

Additionally, MSMS is working with Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and the University of Michigan to study physician counts and per capita ratios; demographic profiles of physicians (statewide and counties); current practice patterns; specialty distribution by state and region; forecasts of supply and demand; and medical school and residency training programs. This comprehensive study of physicians in Michigan will include an analysis of medical education and medical education capacity in Michigan. Results are expected in 2006.

The study was published in the July/August issue of Michigan Medicine magazine.


Snapshots from “The Future Supply and Demand for Physicians in Michigan,” a study conducted by Public Policy Associates, Inc., commissioned by the Michigan State Medical Society, July 2005:

-- Of the 32,700 physicians in Michigan, 29,906 were actively engaged in medicine.

-- Approximately 85 percent of active Michigan physicians are engaged in patient care while five percent are actively engaged in medical activities other than patient care, including medical administration, medical teaching, and medical research. The remaining 10 percent did not report on their specific activities.

-- Sixty-one percent of all active Michigan physicians are in office-based practice, 16 percent are residents, and eight percent are hospital staff.

-- Although females currently comprise about half of all medical students in Michigan, more than two-thirds of active Michigan physicians are males. The mean age for all active physicians in Michigan is 44.8 years, and 27 percent of all Michigan physicians are age 55 or older.

-- There is at least one active physician in each Michigan county. However, 90 percent of Michigan’s physicians are concentrated in only 20 of the state’s 83 counties. Not surprisingly, Michigan’s largest counties have the largest concentration of physicians, with more than 7,500 physicians in Oakland County, almost 5,300 in Wayne County, and almost 3,500 in Washtenaw County. Kent, Macomb, Ingham, and Genesee Counties follow with more than 1,300 physicians each.

-- The most common areas of specialization reported in 2004 were family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics. Together, these four areas of specialization were reported by approximately 43 percent of all currently active Michigan physicians.


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