A state-by-state look at where doctors are needed most

Doctors talking
Mississippi has the lowest number of doctors per patient. (Getty/wmiami)

Statistically speaking, patients have a better chance of finding a doctor in Massachusetts than they do in Mississippi.

That’s according to a new report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) that examines current physician supply, medical school enrollment and graduate medical education in the United States, and includes profiles providing snapshots on individual states.

The report says there were 271.6 active physicians per 100,000 people in the U.S. in 2016 (compared to 265.5 in 2014 when the last report was compiled), ranging from a high of 443.5 in Massachusetts to a low of only 186.1 in Mississippi.

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That’s good news given the predicted physician shortage in the U.S., but between 2008 and 2016 there was very little increase in the median number of active primary care physicians and virtually no increase in the median number of general surgeons, the AAMC said.

The AAMC projects a shortage of between about 41,000 and 105,000 doctors by 2030.

The physician population continues to age, as the percentage of doctors age 60 or older increased to just shy of 31% in 2016, up from 29.4% in 2014.

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There’s also still a problem attracting doctors to work in rural communities, as some states struggle to retain doctors who have undergone training. The report found that only 38.5% of physicians practice in the same state where they received their undergraduate medical education.

However, 67.1% of physicians who complete both undergraduate and graduate medical education in the same state remained there to practice.

To try to attract and keep doctors, medical schools, hospitals and state legislators are getting creative—forgiving student loans, setting up mentoring programs and recruiting graduates with local ties, according to a STAT report that analyzed states' ability to retain physicians.

The report, done biennially, tracks doctors and doctors-in-training on a state-by-state basis.