How Many Physicians Can a Rural Community Support? A Practice Income Potential Model for Washington State


Addresses the ability of smaller and underserved rural communities to financially support needed physicians. Reports on an experimental simulation model that projects potential practice income for primary care physicians in rural communities of Washington State. Finds that the distribution of physicians follows predicted economic potential. Surprisingly, the types of rural communities most likely to have fewer physicians are not small isolated towns, but larger communities with above average population growth, closer proximity to metro areas and somewhat lower average family incomes. Towns in HPSAs were predominantly constrained by demand deficits. To overcome demand barriers, continuous subsidies such as enhanced Medicare payments for certified Rural Health Clinics or 10 percent Medicare supplemental payments for care provided in a HPSA could be offered. Signing-bonus approaches may help overcome initial reluctance to practice in rural areas where demand is sufficient to support long-term retention.

WWAMI Rural Health Research Center
George Wright, Holly Andrilla, Gary Hart