Specialist Physicians in the Rural and Urban U.S.: Supply, Distribution, and Access


A shortage of physicians in rural areas has been reported for decades, but trends in the geographic variability in specialist physician supply and distribution and types of communities suffering shortages of specialty have not been well documented. A recent WWAMI RHRC study of Medicare beneficiaries found that residents of remote rural places had median one-way travel times that exceeded 30 minutes to obtain care for conditions including heart disease and cancer. Rural Health Clinics have reported lack of access to specialists as their most common difficulty in making timely referrals.

This study will describe changes over time in the supply and distribution of specialist that provide care for conditions that account for the leading four causes of rural mortality: heart disease (cardiology), cancer (oncology and various surgical subspecialties), chronic lower respiratory disease (pulmonology), and stroke (neurology). We will also interview rural health system leaders in remote communities to understand how rural patients with these conditions access appropriate specialty care. Tracking trends in local physician supply and alternatives will help to inform the development of realistic policy solutions to address disparities in accessing specialty care.


Davis Patterson, PhD







In Progress