Reason for Ranking
Access to care requires not only financial coverage, but also access to providers. While high rates of specialist physicians have been shown to be associated with higher (and perhaps unnecessary) utilization, sufficient availability of primary care physicians is essential for preventive and primary care, and, when needed, referrals to appropriate specialty care.[1,2]
Measurement Strengths and Limitations
Although the relationship between primary care physicians and improved health outcomes is supported in the literature, this measure has a number of limitations. First, primary care physicians are classified by county, but physicians living on the edge of counties or who practice in multiple locations may see patient populations that reside in surrounding counties. Second, physicians are not the only type of primary care provider available for most patients. This measure does not include nurse practitioners, physician assistants or other practitioners available for primary care services. Finally, the way care is organized and coordinated may be just as important to health outcomes as the number of primary care physicians in an area.