Texas Physician Growth Remains Strong, But Robust Recruitment Still Needed
By Sean Price


Texas has made great strides in recruiting new physicians to the state and keeping them, but it still has a long way to go to catch up with physician-patient ratios seen in other states, according to Texas Medical Association research. 

Texas’ huge improvements in physician recruitment come amid smoking hot population growth. The Lone Star State is No. 1 for numerical population increases since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 4 million people came to Texas between 2010 and 2020, and the number continued growing, reaching a total of 29.5 million in 2021, states a 2022 report by TMA’s Committee on Physician Distribution and Health Care Access. 

And yet, the growth rate for physicians has been even hotter. Between 2010 and 2020, physicians providing patient care in all specialties increased by 33.6% while the state’s population increased by 15%, TMA found. And since 2003 – when Texas passed its landmark tort reform law – the state has added 18,437 more physicians with in-state licenses than can be accounted for by the net increase in the state’s population, according to the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, which includes TMA.  

But the TMA report added a note of caution: “Despite signs of improved physician numbers and distribution, the committee recognizes that physician shortages remain in many other areas.”  

“Physician recruitment is improving, and it’s improving consistently, and this is all really good news,” said Marcia Collins, TMA’s associate vice president for medical education. “There are a lot of great trends going on.” 

“But,” she added, “we still have incredible needs, and we still have serious shortages.” 

First off, Texas has 8.8% of the U.S. population but 7.3% of U.S. active physicians, according to TMA.  

The impact of Texas’ shortages can be seen best by comparing the ratios of Texas physicians to the Texas population with those same ratios from other states, Ms. Collins says. The Texas ratio of patient care physicians per 100,000 population increased from 199.9 in 2018 to 204.6 in 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). However, Texas’ ratio still falls well below the U.S. ratio of 247.5 

For physicians active in patient care, Texas ranks near the bottom at 42nd for all specialties, 46th for general surgeons, and 47th for primary care physicians, AAMC says. 

“Although there has been strong growth in the number of Texas physicians, Texas has far fewer physicians per capita than other states,” the committee report said. “There is a continued need to expand physician recruitment efforts and to prepare more homegrown physicians.” 

Also, there are no studies or reports yet showing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician recruitment and retention, the committee notes. Anecdotally, some physicians chose to retire or change careers because of the pandemic, so future data may show a slowdown in Texas’ physician growth. 

Last Updated On

August 22, 2022

Originally Published On

August 22, 2022

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