Our list of the 10 states with the lowest number of physicians per capita, might give you some insight into the states that will be affected the most by the projected total physician shortfall of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030.
To explain the projected shortfall we have to know a little bit about the US population growth history. The period from 1946 until 1964 is so-called “baby boom” period, during which the US experienced a dramatic increase in birth rates, and according to the US Census Bureau in 2012, there were 76.4 million people living in the US that were born during the baby boom period. This very large population is getting old, and it is projected that it will double the number of older Americans by 2040. Older people need more medical care, and not only that – there is definitely a lot of doctors from that population that will retire. However, that is not the only reason for the projected shortfall. The main problem is that there is not enough federally supported residency training positions for MDs. Or, as the Association of American Medical Colleges explains it: “Without raising the federally imposed cap on support for graduate medical education (GME) and expanding training capacity, the increase in medical school graduates will do little to help the growing demand for physician services.“
You might be wondering what is the ideal ratio of physicians per 100,000 people? Well, the truth is that there is no right answer to that question. The number of necessary physicians depends on many factors that vary from community to community. For example, if a community has a larger percentage of older people it will need more doctors, as we already mentioned in the explanation of the projected shortfall. Other factors such as the percentage of physically inactive people, obesity rate, hypertension rate, diabetes rate, all contribute to the increased number of necessary doctors. World health organization determined, that absolute minimum of medical staff needed to deliver essential maternal and child health services is 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 population, but this number is targeting low-income countries and only a part of the health care system.
The state with the highest number of doctors per 100,000 people has more than 2.3 times the doctors than the state with the lowest number of doctors, and contributing factors to this situation are median household income, and percentage of people without health insurance, it is quite simple – physicians move to the states where they will have a bigger paycheck.
If you’d like to know what types of physician specialties have the longest annual work hours, check out our article 10 Doctors and Specialists Who Work the Longest Hours.
We are ranking the states by the number of active physicians per 100,000 population, and in order to paint a clearer picture of the “health status” of each state we will also provide student enrollment data, and number of residents and fellows in ACGME-accredited training programs using data for the year 2014 as provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges(AAMC). In addition to that we include interesting statistics from StateOfObesity and United States Census Bureau, while life expectancy at birth was taken from the Measure of America. From now on we will use per capita as meaning per 100,000 population, and we begin our list of 10 states with the lowest number of physicians per capita.