An Ambitious Project Measuring Demand for Health Care Providers Scales Back, Discovering What Doesn't Work

Investigators at Abt Health Care Research Foundation in Cambridge, Mass., attempted to develop three new methods for measuring the demand for the services of generalist physicians and mid-level practitioners:

  • Analyzing available positions based on classified advertisements in national professional journals.
  • Surveying directors of residency training programs on employment opportunities.
  • Surveying employers in urban and rural communities on available positions.

Key Results

  • Under the grant, the principal investigator:

    • Analyzed trends in positions for physicians and mid-level practitioners using classified advertisements in The New England Journal of Medicine and The Journal of the American Medical Association, and found that an employment index was not an accurate gauge for predicting demand.
    • Surveyed 539 primary care residency program directors and found that assessments of employment opportunities were based on directors' opinions rather than measurable demand.
    • Decided not to survey employers for the third part of the project because of difficulties obtaining the needed data.

Key Findings

  • This project highlighted the difficulty in accurately and efficiently predicting the demand for health care providers—a measurement that remains important in health care manpower planning.

    The project raised the sophistication of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) program staff in thinking about these issues and led to two grants, awarded to the American Medical Association, to conduct a national survey of residency program directors and graduating residents regarding career opportunities (see Program Results Report on ID#s 024470 and 026411).