Are Enough Physicians of the Right Types Trained in the United States?

HRD-77-92: Published: May 16, 1978. Publicly Released: May 16, 1978.

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Congress and the medical profession are concerned about whether the number of physicians practicing in various medical specialties is appropriate and whether a proper distribution of physicians by specialty is available in the U.S. Discussion has focused on whether enough physicians will be practicing in primary case specialties and whether too many physicians are or will be practicing in other specialties. Considerable debate has also occurred on whether there is a sufficient aggregate supply of physicians in the U.S.

No system exists to ensure that the number and type of physicians trained is consistent with or related to the appropriate number needed. Decisions on the type and size of graduate medical education programs offered are usually made by individual medical school and hospital program directors without consideration of national needs. Programs offered are influenced by the funds available, the need to provide balanced training within the institution, and patient care needs of training institutions. These programs are not coordinated with identical training programs offered elsewhere. At the present time, no public or private organization has overall responsibility for developing and implementing a system to see that the number and types of physician specialists are consistent with the number needed. The best way to answer the question about the total number of physicians needed is first to determine the number of each type of specialist needed.

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