Increasing the Supply of Rural Family Physicians: Recent Outcomes From Jefferson Medical College's Physician Shortage Area Program (PSAP)

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Abstract

Purpose

The shortage of primary care physicians in rural areas is an enduring problem with serious implications for access to care. Although studies have previously shown that medical school rural programs—such as Jefferson Medical College's Physician Shortage Area Program (PSAP)—significantly increase the rural workforce, determining whether these programs continue to be successful is important.

Method

The authors obtained, from the Jefferson Longitudinal Study, the 2007 practice location and specialty for the 2,394 PSAP and non-PSAP graduates of 11 previously unreported Jefferson graduating classes (1992–2002). They determined the relative likelihood both of PSAP versus non-PSAP graduates practicing rural family medicine and of all PSAP versus non-PSAP graduates practicing in Pennsylvania's rural counties.

Results

PSAP graduates were much more likely both to practice rural family medicine than their non-PSAP peers (32.0% [31/97] versus 3.2% [65/2,004]; relative risk [RR] = 9.9, confidence interval [CI] 6.8–14.4, P < .001) and to practice any specialty in rural Pennsylvania (PSAP 24.7% [24/97] versus non-PSAP 2.0% [40/2,004]; RR = 12.4, CI 7.8–19.7, P < .001).

Conclusions

Despite major changes in health care in recent decades, Jefferson's PSAP continues to represent a successful model for substantially increasing the supply and distribution of rural family physicians. Especially with the forthcoming expansion in health insurance, access to care for rural residents will require an increased supply of providers. These results may also be important for medical schools planning to develop similar rural programs, given the new Rural Physician Training Grants program.

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