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January 23, 2008

Does Having More Physicians Lead to Better Health System Performance?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Center for Health Policy Research, Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire (Dr Goodman); Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (Dr Grumbach).

JAMA. 2008;299(3):335-337. doi:10.1001/jama.299.3.335

The US health system faces ongoing challenges in addressing its shortcomings in access and quality.1 Against a foreground of uneven and fragmented care lies a bleak background of unrelentingly accelerating costs. Although the problems of quality and costs are long-standing, several organizations have recently asserted that there is a new impending health care “tragedy”2: the physician workforce shortage. In contrast to the extensively documented problems of quality and affordability, the inference of a physician shortage rests on a less robust set of analyses. Assertions of a physician shortage warrant a critical examination because more physicians will compete for new resources against already well-documented health system needs.

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