The Number of Practicing Primary Care Physicians in the United States

Primary Care Workforce Facts and Stats No. 1

Among physicians in the United States who spend the majority of their time in direct patient care, slightly less than one-third are specialists in primary care.

Summary: In 2010, there were approximately 209,000 practicing primary care physicians in the U.S., according to research commissioned by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Of the 624,434 physicians in the United States who spend the majority of their time in direct patient care, slightly less than one-third are specialists in primary care. Primary care physicians consist of family physicians and general practitioners, general internists, general pediatricians, and geriatricians. Of the nearly 956 million visits that Americans made to office-based physicians in 2008, 51.3% were to primary care physicians.1

Visits to office-based physicians, non-primary care vs. primary care and within primary care, 2008

According to the 2010 American Medical Association Physician Masterfile, there are slightly more than 246,000 primary care physicians in the United States. This number, however, overestimates the number of practicing physicians and needs to be adjusted because the AMA Physician Masterfile includes some retired physicians and others who have left the workforce and a substantial number of primary care trained physicians now practice in non-primary care settings, including as hospitalists and in emergency departments. After adjusting for these two factors, the number of practicing primary care physicians in the U.S. is estimated to be approximately 209,000.

U.S. practicing primary care physicians, 2010

Type of practice Primary care physicians in direct patient care* Adjusting for retirement Percent estimated to be practicing Practicing primary care physicians
FP 87,650 84,033 95% 79,831
GER 3,260 3,157 95% 2,999
GP 11,883 9,557 100% 9,557
GIM 93,655 89,359 80% 71.487
PD 49,642 47,297 95% 44,933
Total 246,090 233,403   208,807

* From the AMA Physician Masterfile 2010.
Abbreviations: FP = Family Practice, GER = Geriatrics, GP =General Practice, GIM= General Internal Medicine, PD = General Pediatrics.

This is the first in a series being produced by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Center for Primary Care, Prevention, and Clinical Partnerships to further inform policy discussions around the U.S. primary care workforce. Information is based on a comprehensive primary care workforce analysis conducted by the Robert Graham Center for AHRQ. Visit http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/factsheets/pcworkforce.html for more in the Primary Care Workforce Facts and Stats series.

Reference

1. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2010: With Special Feature on Death and Dying. Hyattsville, MD. 2011.

Page last reviewed October 2014
Internet Citation: The Number of Practicing Primary Care Physicians in the United States. October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/factsheets/primary/pcwork1/index.html