AAFP announces new physician workforce policy

September 28, 2006

Sept. 28 - Washington, D.C.- The AAFPs' Congress of Delegates voted late Wednesday to adopt a new physician workforce policy. The new policy adopts the recommendations of study released this week that shows the nation is in dire need of more family physicians. To meet America's healthcare needs, the study notes, there must be a 39 percent increase in family doctors by the year 2020. The study was conducted by consultants from the University of Utah School of Medicine and the Utah Medical Education Council.

Sept. 28 - Washington, D.C.- The AAFPs' Congress of Delegates voted late Wednesday to adopt a new physician workforce policy. The new policy adopts the recommendations of study released this week that shows the nation is in dire need of more family physicians. To meet America's healthcare needs, the study notes, there must be a 39 percent increase in family doctors by the year 2020. The study was conducted by consultants from the University of Utah School of Medicine and the Utah Medical Education Council.

The study report asserts that unless the U.S. healthcare system changes soon, the shortage will become even more severe within the next 10 years as the American population continues to age and the need for healthcare increases.

"We've known for a long time the nation needs more primary care physicians," said Rick Kellerman, M.D., president of the AAFP. "And our new workforce policy makes the case that family physicians are the specialists that can close the current gaps in our country's health care system."

The new study, unlike previous physician workforce studies, takes into account socioeconomic factors such as population growth, increased use of health information technology and increasing health risk factors of the country's aging population.

The study is congruent with the recent American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) report, which calls for a 30 percent increase in the production of U.S. physicians. However, the AAFP's new policy specifically indicates what type of physicians the nation needs now and will need in the future.

In response to the study's findings, the AAFP has identified a number of goals it plans to pursue to help reform the family physician workforce, including:

  • Encourage its 94,000 members to implement the TransforMED Model of Care, which includes the use of electronic health records, redesigned office space, open-access scheduling and overall care that centers on the patient;

  • Support efforts to ensure health care access for all Americans;

  • Actively lobby and advocate for increased payments to family physicians, which will attract medical students to the specialty and retain current family physicians;

  • Work with health insurance companies, as well as with the government, to encourage them to contribute to the costs of medical education;

  • Work with medical schools to attract the students who are most likely to select career paths and practice locations that will improve the current maldistribution of physicians.

  • Work with residency programs to better prepare family physicians to care for the evolving U.S. patient population- greater training on care of older adults, health disparities and the management of complex patients with chronic illnesses;

  • Help establish a public-private entity to allocate funding for graduate medical education; and

  • Advocate for preferential funding to residency programs that support diversity and produce those physicians most likely to practice in underserved communities in rural or inner-city areas.