Growth in the physician assistant workforce will be insufficient to meet future needs of primary care

Research Activities, March 2012, No. 379

The growth of physician assistants (PAs) in the U.S. medical workforce will not be sufficient to meet the future needs of primary care, especially given the predicted shortage of primary care physicians, concludes a new study. The study simulated projected growth in PA supply between 2010 and 2025. It found that the current number of PAs (72,000) will grow by almost 72 percent by 2025. However, this growth rate will likely only provide 16 percent of the providers needed to address the projected primary care physician shortage.

In 2010, there were 154 accredited PA education programs, and 152 produced a graduating class. Of the 6,688 graduates in 2010 (an average of 44 graduates per program), 97 percent were expected to enter the pool of clinically active PAs. Of these graduates, the mean age was 29 years and 75 percent were female. With a 7 percent increase in the graduate entry rate and a 5 percent annual attrition rate, the supply of clinically active PAs was projected to grow to 93,099 in 2012 and to 127,821 by 2015. This model held clinically active PAs in primary care at 34 percent. Given the need to mitigate the expected physician shortage, policy steps enacted in 2010 to fund and promote an increased annual supply of PAs appear justified, suggest the researchers. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00083).

See "Predictive modeling the physician assistant supply: 2010-2025," by Roderick S. Hooker, Ph.D., James F. Cawley, M.P.H., and Christine M. Everett, M.P.H., in the September/October 2011 Public Health Reports 126, pp. 708-716.

Current as of March 2012
Internet Citation: Growth in the physician assistant workforce will be insufficient to meet future needs of primary care: Research Activities, March 2012, No. 379. March 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/mar12/0312RA30.html