Dynamics of change in local physician supply: An ecological perspective

H. Joanna Jiang, James W. Begun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study is to employ an ecological framework to identify factors that have an impact on change in local physician supply within the USA. A particular specialty type of patient care physicians in a local market is defined as a physician population. Four physician populations are identified: generalists, medical specialists, surgical specialists, and hospital-based specialists. Based on population ecology theory, the proposed framework explains the growth of a particular physician population by four mechanisms: the intrinsic properties of this physician population; the local market's carrying capacity, which is determined by three environmental dimensions (munificence, concentration, diversity); competition within the same physician population; and interdependence between different physician populations. Data at the level of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) were compiled from the US Area Resources File, the American Hospital Association Annual Surveys of Hospitals, the American Medical Association Census of Medical Groups, the InterStudy National HMO Census, and the US County Business Patterns. Changes in the number and percentage of physicians in a particular specialty population from 1985 to 1994 were regressed, respectively, on 1985-94 changes in the explanatory variables as well as their levels in 1985. The results indicate that the population ecology framework is useful in explaining dynamics of change in the local physician workforce. Variables measuring the three environmental dimensions were found to have significant, and in some cases, differential effects on change in the size of different specialty populations. For example, both hospital consolidation and managed care penetration showed significant positive effects on growth of the generalist population but suppressing effects on growth of the specialist population. The percentage of physicians in a particular specialty population in 1985 was negatively related to change in the size of that specialty population between 1985 and 1994, suggesting the existence of competition. Overall, the findings of this study facilitate a better understanding of the complexity of physician workforce supply.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1525-1541
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2002


  • Hospital consolidation
  • Local physician supply
  • Managed care
  • Physician workforce
  • Population ecology
  • Specialty mix
  • USA


Dive into the research topics of 'Dynamics of change in local physician supply: An ecological perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this