How many physicians do you need in your network?
The answer is not as simple as it seems.
Health systems and medical groups preparing for population
health management need to consider how this strategic shift
will affect demand for physician services. They must develop a
comprehensive assessment of current and future physician needs
that considers questions such as:
- Do we have enough primary care providers to meet emerging
imperatives for improved care management and patient access?
- As utilization patterns shift, will we have more specialists than
we can financially support?
Physician manpower planning takes far more than a simple matching of "number of patients" to "number of physicians."
Physician-to-population ratios do exist,
but they give an incomplete picture.
Many commonly used models, such as the ratios developed by
the Graduate Medical Education National Advisory Committee
(GMENAC), are based on the assumptions of a fee-for-service
environment. They do not account for how utilization and
demand for physician services may change with greater
Demand forecasts based on managed care utilization may be more
applicable under accountable care. However, these ratios are also
imperfect. Developed during the 1990s, they do not account for
care delivery innovations that can impact physician productivity
or differences between traditional HMO patients and the broader
population that may affect utilization.
But even if more reliable ratios existed, they would offer only a high-level
starting point. They are not perfect predictors of physician
need within a specific community.
Instead, health system leaders must carefully
consider a range of unique market and organizational
factors that can significantly influence the demand
for and supply of physicians.
This briefing explores how these factors affect physician network planning in three areas:
1. Demand for primary care physicians
2. Demand for specialty care physicians
3. Supply of available providers
You’ll also find a case study and a list of questions that can help you assess the
unique impact of these factors on your own organization. Although
the wide range of variables to consider may make physician needs
assessment appear daunting at first, it’s important to recognize
that you do not need to arrive at precise numerical projections to
take meaningful action.
Instead, the goal should be to develop a
directionally correct sense of provider need—a rough
understanding of trends within different specialty
areas that can guide recruitment and hiring, now and
into the future.
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