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June 2, 1978

Physician Manpower

Author Affiliations

Health Systems Agency of New York City New York

JAMA. 1978;239(22):2339. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280490023007

To the Editor.—  Health systems agencies, by legislative mandate, must evaluate resource availability in their respective service areas. One resource category that should be evaluated is manpower, particularly the availability of primary care physicians.Existing need assessment methodologies that many federal agencies use (eg, physician to population ratios) have serious conceptual defects. When a sample of practitioners is used for planning purposes without the inclusion of other qualifying measures, inaccuracies can lead to underestimates in federal funding allocations, usually to the detriment of local communities. Before public dollars are committed and planning projects initiated, agencies must reassess their physician inventories, adjust manpower-to-population ratios, and develop valid and more consistent methodologies for determining the need for primary care physicians.Holden and Levit's recent article on physician specialty changes (239:205, 1978) begins to address some of the problems in manpower planning. This study, however, omits two other concerns that are essential for