Oregon Will Need More Primary Care Providers by 2020

OHSU President Joe Robertson

OHSU President Joe Robertson

For the first time, Oregon has quantified how many primary care providers it needs to meet patient demand.

The Oregon Healthcare Workforce Committee, at the request of the Oregon Health Policy Board, developed the projections, which predict how many primary care doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants the state will need through 2020.

The projected growth in demand for the three primary care providers is expected to increase anywhere between seven and 16 percent. That means Oregon will need between 750 and 1,700 new physicians, 200 to 600 new nurse practitioners and 200 to 400 new physician assistants.

In certain counties, especially rural counties and southern Oregon—where much of the state’s elderly population resides—provider demand will be quite high, anywhere from a 15 to 40 percent increase.

“This, to me, is a great study that demonstrates…there are things the state could to meet the needed demand,” said Oregon Health & Science University President Joe Robertson, MD.

Currently, OHSU graduates approximately 160 physicians each year. But Robertson emphasized the need for more medical residencies in the state.

“The state could decide to be more proactive in assisting community hospitals in [creating residencies],” he said.

“It’s a perennial concern about whether the state is going to have enough providers to take care of the newly insured,” Lisa Angus, the workforce committee’s chairwoman, said when she presented the findings during the policy board’s Feb. 4 meeting. “Everyone knows, anecdotally, that the changing ways care is delivered is going to create different demands.”

To arrive at its conclusions, the committee used information from Oregon’s all payer, all claims database, the Oregon Health Licensing Agency, demographic forecasts from the State Office of Economic Analysis, and forecasts in insurance enrollment from the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center.

The data allowed researchers to look at county-level provider demands—offering an unprecedented, detailed look into Oregon’s primary care workforce.

Provider demand in the future will depend on a variety of factors, including Medicaid enrollment, how much nurse practitioners and physician assistants are used as scope of practice changes, and the use of health information technology.

The report doesn’t account for attrition, and “we can never say how many technology could change clinician and social forces, including health of the population,” Peter Graven, a health economist at Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Health Systems Effectiveness, told the policy board.