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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 practicePrimary care physicians in direct patient care*Adjusting for retirementPercent estimated to be practicingPracticing primary care physicians
FP87,65084,03395%79,831
GER3,2603,15795%2,999
GP11,8839,557100%9,557
GIM93,65589,35980%71.487
PD49,64247,29795%44,933
Total246,090233,403 208,807

* 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 2011
Internet Citation: The Number of Practicing Primary Care Physicians in the United States: Primary Care Workforce Facts and Stats No. 1. October 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/factsheets/primary/pcwork1/index.html