Underrepresented Minority Physicians Hold Potential for Improving Access to Care for Underserved Populations, According to UAlbany Study
Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150
ALBANY, N.Y. (September 8, 2006) -- Physicians in New York are not representative of the population of the state in terms of their race and ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos and American Indians account for 30 percent of New York's population but only 10 percent of the state's physician workforce. Research documents persistent gaps in health status between minority populations and non-Hispanic Whites, such as experiencing a disproportionate share of disease burden and having poorer health outcomes. Increasing the number of physicians from these racial and ethnic minority groups that are underrepresented in medicine holds the potential for substantially improving access to care for minority patients, according to a new study by the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany's School of Public Health.
The report, A Profile of New York's Minority Physicians, 2006, indicates that practice patterns of underrepresented minority (URM) physicians differ from those of non-URM physicians. URM physicians are more likely to report a principal specialty in primary care compared to non-URM physicians. They are also more likely to practice in hospitals and three times more likely to practice in free standing clinics than non-URM physicians. URM physicians are also more likely to serve patients covered by Medicaid, and more than half of URM physicians in New York City practice in federally designated primary care shortage areas compared to about one-third of all other physicians in New York City.
"The findings of this research suggest that URM physicians, who improve the diversity and cultural competency of the physician workforce, can potentially increase access to care and quality of care for underserved and minority populations in New York," said Jean Moore director of the Center and an author of the study. "Studies have found that members of minority groups are more likely to visit physicians from their own racial and ethnic background, and also report greater satisfaction with the health care they receive."
Among the key findings of the report:
- URM physicians are more likely than other physicians to be female (44 percent to 27 percent), and half of URM physicians were age 44 or younger, compared to 38 percent of non-URM physicians.
- URM physicians are more likely than other physicians to report a principal specialty in primary care (36 percent to 25 percent) or obstetrics and gynecology (11 percent compared to 5 percent).
- URM physicians are more likely to work in downstate New York (85 percent versus 73 percent) and more likely to work in urban areas of the state as compared to rural areas (95 percent versus 90 percent).
- URM physicians are more likely to work in hospitals and free standing clinics than non-URM physicians, including nearly four times as likely to work in clinics (8 percent compared to 2 percent). This is particularly important because economically disadvantaged patients tend to seek care from either hospitals or clinics rather than from physicians in private practice.
- More than half of URM physicians in New York City practice in federally designated primary care shortage areas compared to less than a third of non-URM physicians (55 percent versus 33 percent) and URM physicians are more likely to report that half of their patients have Medicaid as their primary source of reimbursement (22.9 percent versus 7.8 percent).
"The similarities between these findings and past studies suggest that the problems associated with a lack of diversity among physicians may be part of a greater health care workforce problem in New York," said Moore. "The benefits associated with minority recruitment and retention may span a variety of health care professions."
The Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany's School of Public Health conducts studies of the supply, demand, use, and education of the health workforce, and collects and analyzes data to understand workforce dynamics and trends. It is one of six regional centers devoted to health workforce studies with a cooperative agreement with U.S. Department of Health's Health Resources and Services Administration/Bureau of Health Professions.
Through its partnership with the New York State Dept. of Health, UAlbany's School of Public Health offers students immediate access to internships at the Health Department, Albany Medical College, and variety of other public and private health institutions throughout New York. Students have unique access to study the most profound health issues facing us today: the threat of bioterrorism; the spread of HIV/AIDS and other emerging diseases; the lack of affordable and accessible healthcare for individuals and families; environmental hazards; substance abuse and social violence; maternal mortality in developing countries; the promises and threats of genetic engineering; protecting food and water supplies. For more information, visit the School of Public Health.