New study shows major gaps in Texas’ physician workforce
IRVING, Texas – One hundred and eighty-five (185) Texas counties with a combined population equal to or greater than 21 individual states have no general psychiatrist, while 158 Texas counties with a combined population equal to or greater than 14 individual states have no general surgeon, according to a new report.
Entitled “The Physician Workforce in Texas: An Examination of Physician Distribution, Access, Demographics, Affiliations and Practice Patterns in Texas’ 254 Counties,” the study was prepared for the North Texas Regional Extension Center (NTREC), a program of the DFW Hospital Council Foundation, by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search and consulting firm. The report exposes major gaps in Texas’ physician workforce and calls into question patient access to physicians in the state.
“The good news is that Texas is adding thousands of physicians to the workforce,” said Richard Howe, PhD, executive director of NTREC. “The bad news is we are not keeping up with demand, with both rural and urban areas facing severe access challenges.”
The study includes a breakdown of physician numbers for each county in Texas. It concludes that 35 counties have no physician of any kind, while 80 counties have five or fewer physicians. One hundred and forty-seven (147) Texas counties with a combined population of more than 1.8 million people have no obstetrician/gynecologist. More than 1.9 million Texans live in counties without a general surgeon, while more than 3.1 million live in counties without a psychiatrist.
Texas ranks 41st among 50 states in physicians per 100,000 residents and would need to add 12,819 physicians in order to be in line with the national per capita average, according to the report. The study also reveals that while many rural counties lack physicians, urban areas also are experiencing challenges. There are 375 federally designated Health Care Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in Texas with a dearth of primary care physicians, many of them located in Texas’ most populous counties, including Dallas, Harris and Bexar.
Access may be compounded by changing practice patterns among Texas physicians. The study reveals Texas ranks second in percentage of physicians who remain in independent private practice. However, Texas physicians are embracing new trends such as hospital employment, part-time practice and concierge medicine that reduce their overall hours and accessibility. They also are less likely to accept Medicaid and Medicare payments than physicians in other states.
“It’s not just how many physicians you have in a state that determines patient access,” said Travis Singleton, senior vice president of Merritt Hawkins. “It is how they choose to practice and where they choose to practice that counts.”
The report further indicates that physician shortages are having a detrimental economic impact in Texas, reducing potential employment and undermining the financial viability of mostly rural hospitals. A complete copy of the report can be accessed at www.ntrec.org or www.merritthawkins.com.
About North Texas Regional Extension Center and DFW Hospital Council Foundation
A program of the DFW Hospital Council (DFWHC) Foundation (www.dfwhcf.wpengine.com), the North Texas Regional Extension Center (NTREC) assists physicians in 42 counties in implementing Electronic Health Records. NTREC was funded by a 2010 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The DFWHC Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to continually improve the community’s health by promoting high quality and cost effective healthcare.
About Merritt Hawkins
Merritt Hawkins (www.merritthawkins.com) is the leading physician search and consulting firm in the United States and is a company of AMN Healthcare (www.amnhealthcare.com) the largest healthcare staffing organization in the country and nation’s innovator of healthcare workforce solutions.
NTREC/DFW Hospital Council
NOTE: This publication was made possible by Grant Number 90RC0048 from the Office of the National Coordinator, Department of Health and Human Services. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Office of the National Coordinator.