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Your responses to statewide study document shortage areas, how hard you work
e-Reports, Feb. 7, 2011
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Indiana physicians are working at least 50 hours a week taking care of patients and delaying retirement, according to newly released data from the state’s 2009 Physician Re-Licensure Survey. Information gleaned from the survey is used to make changes to improve programs in medical training and recruitment.

About 83 percent of physicians who renewed their licenses online responded to the voluntary survey. Questions addressed current work status, primary practice site, activities performed in the practice, average hours worked, practice time spent in Indiana, plus demographics.

Findings showed that of licensees who responded:

  • 43 percent spent 50 or more hours a week in direct patient care activities.
  • Nearly 85 percent saw or accepted Medicaid patients.
  • More than 90 percent were actively seeing patients.
  • 3 percent were in training as a medical resident/fellow.
  • 4 percent were active in medicine but not seeing patients.

Lafayette family physician and AMA Board member Ed Langston, M.D., who served on the study’s advisory committee said, “One of the major issues identified is that the physicians workforce is getting older. More physicians are practicing past the age of 65 than in previous surveys. One wonders if it is related to the economy.”

He was surprised at the number of family physicians who continue to practice obstetrics, noting over one-third of the physicians providing prenatal care and deliveries were family physicians.

The information offers insight into physician workforce trends that help:

  • Develop and manage programs to recruit and retain physicians
  • Determine physician shortage areas
  • Identify additional locations for training residents and fellows within the state

Comparing data nationally
In reviewing the study, Dr. Langston said the data is reflective of the nation. He noted that in addition to an aging workforce, there is a major trend toward sub-specialists rather than primary care.

Terrel Zollinger, Dr.P.H., one of the study’s authors, observed that Indiana’s physician workforce appears to be faring better than most other states.

“Indiana has a much larger proportion of primary care physicians that are family medicine specialists,” he explained. “In most other states, there are relatively larger numbers of general internal medicine specialists providing primary care.”

Dr. Zollinger noted other states, like Indiana, are struggling with physician shortages, especially in rural areas. He also observed that Indiana has too few African-American and Hispanic physicians and not enough physicians with economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“These differences lead to less than optimal cultural competency on the part of the physician and lack of trust on the part of the patient,” he commented.

Dr. Langston agreed, “In 2004, the Association of American Medical Colleges identified that African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans comprised 26 percent of the U.S. population. But only 16 percent of the graduates of U.S. medical schools in 2008 and 14 percent in 2007 were African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.”

Since 2003, all Indiana physicians who renewed their licenses online were asked to complete the survey. Online renewals and survey responses have increased nearly 16 percent.

Find the full report on the IUPUI website.

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