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U.S. Efforts to Boost Number of Primary Care Doctors Have Failed
Date:1/10/2013

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Amid signs of a growing shortage of primary care physicians in the United States, a new study shows that the majority of newly minted doctors continues to gravitate toward training positions in high-income specialties in urban hospitals.

This is occurring despite a government initiative designed to lure more graduating medical students to the field of primary care over the past eight years, the research shows. Primary care includes family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, preventive medicine, geriatric medicine and osteopathic general practice.

Dr. Candice Chen, lead study author and an assistant research professor in the department of health policy at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said the nation's efforts to boost the supply of primary care physicians and encourage doctors to practice in rural areas have failed.

"The system still incentivizes keeping medical residents in inpatient settings and is designed to help hospitals recruit top specialists," Chen said.

In 2005, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act was implemented with the goal of redistributing about 3,000 residency positions in the nation's hospitals to primary care positions and rural areas.

The study, which was published in the January issue of journal Health Affairs, found, however, that in the wake of that effort, care positions increased only slightly and the relative growth of specialist training doubled.

The goal of enticing more new physicians to rural areas also fell short. Of more than 300 hospitals that received additional residency positions, only 12 appointments were in rural areas.

The researchers used Medicare/Medicaid data supplied by hospitals from 1998 to 2008. They also reviewed data from teaching hospitals, including the number of resid
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