New Study: Some Colorado Regions Lack Enough Primary Care Physicians
A Colorado Health Institute study to be released Tuesday, February 11, finds that nine regions of the state are struggling to attract and retain enough primary care physicians.
“Colorado’s Primary Care Workforce: A Study of Regional Disparities,” reveals that Colorado has the full-time equivalent of 2,812 practicing primary care physicians, enough for each doctor to care for 1,873 patients.
Compared to a benchmark panel size of 1,900 patients per primary care physician, this indicates that Colorado most likely has a suitable number of primary care physicians overall.
But, delving deeper, the study reveals that while 12 regions clearly have enough primary care physicians, nine others – many in rural and mountain areas - do not. In total, these nine regions need an additional 258 full-time primary care physicians to reach the benchmark panel size.
The Eastern Plains counties of Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson and Lincoln (Region 5) lead this category with 5,636 residents for each full-time primary care physician. Clear Creek, Gilpin, Park and Teller Counties (Region 17) come in second with 3,400 residents for each full-time primary physician, followed by El Paso County (Region 4), Chaffee, Custer, Fremont and Lake counties (Region 13) and Weld County (Region 18).
The Colorado Health Institute also examined the workforce adequacy for Coloradans covered by Medicaid. Findings show that even for areas that theoretically have enough primary care physicians, there may not be enough providers who accept Medicaid insurance.
The study identifies five regional “hot spots,” areas that need more primary care physicians both for the overall population as well as for people covered by Medicaid:
- El Paso County (Region 4)
- Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson and Lincoln counties (Region 5)
- Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Pitkin and Summit counties (Region12)
- Chaffee, Custer, Fremont and Lake counties (Region 13)
- Clear Creek, Gilpin, Park and Teller counties (Region 17)
The counties with the best ratios tend to be more populous and urban. They are led by Denver County (Region 20) with 1,348 residents for each full-time primary care physician. Others with healthy panel sizes are Boulder and Broomfield counties (Region 16) with 1,412 residents for each full-time primary care physician; Mesa County (Region 19) with 1,578 residents for each physician; Pueblo County (Region 7) with 1,664 residents per physician; and Larimer County (Region 2) with 1,709 residents per physician.
The new report also analyzes the number of physician assistants and nurse practitioners, looks at the statewide and regional workforce available to care for Medicaid patients, and examines promising solutions to addressing health care workforce issues.
The report’s lead author is Colorado Health Institute Senior Analyst Rebecca Alderfer. She is available to answer questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720 382-7074.
For other questions or information, contact Deborah Goeken, senior director of operations and communications, at email@example.com or 720 382-7094.
(Note: The regions are based on 21 Health Statistics Regions developed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.)
ABOUT THE COLORADO HEALTH INSTITUTE:
The Colorado Health Institute is a nonpartisan health policy research institute that provides information, data and analysis for the state’s health care leaders. It is funded by the Caring for Colorado Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, The Colorado Trust and The Colorado Health Foundation.