Number of Persons who Consulted a Physician, 1997 and 2002

One Pagers | Sep 15, 2005 Ed Fryer, PhD; Martey Dodoo, PhD; Larry Green, MD; Robert Phillips, MD, MSPH; Ginger Ruddy, MD; Jessica McCann, MD

Most people in the United States consult a general physician each year, and some see other subspecialists. However, the proportion of people consulting a general physician who sees adults and children appears to be declining.

Millions of people consult physicians in the United States each year. According to data from the 1997 and 2002 National Health Interview Surveys, in most specialties the number and proportion of adults, children, and pregnant adult women consulting physicians increased over the five-year period1; the number and proportion of persons consulting general physicians who see adults and children are notable exceptions (see accompanying tables2).

Table 1. Number of Persons (in millions) Who Consulted Physicians
in the Preceding 12 Months, 1997 and 2002

PopulationPhysicianGP who sees adults and children
Population: Adults, 1997
Physician: 195
GP who sees adults and children: 80
Population: Adults, 2002
Physician: 206
GP who sees adults and children: 77
Population: Children, 1997
Physician: 71
GP who sees adults and children: 28
Population: Children, 2002
Physician: 73
GP who sees adults and children: 23
Population: Pregnant Adult Women, 1997
Physician: 2
GP who sees adults and children: 0.8
Population: Pregnant Adult Women, 2002Physician: 3GP who sees adults and children: 0.9
Population: GP = general physician.
Source: Information from reference 2.

Table 2. Percentage* of Total Persons Who Consulted Physicians
in the Preceding 12 Months, 1997 and 2002

PopulationGP who sees adults and children
GP†OB/GYNOther subspecialists
Population: Adults, 1997
GP who sees adults and children: 41
GP†: 66OB/GYN: 23Other subspecialists: 24
Population: Adults, 2002
GP who sees adults and children: 38
GP†: 67OB/GYN: 23Other subspecialists: 26
Population: Children, 1997
GP who sees adults and children: 39
GP†: 78OB/GYN: 1Other subspecialists: 12
Population: Children, 2002
GP who sees adults and children: 32
GP†: 80OB/GYN: 1Other subspecialists: 13
Population: Pregnant Adult Women, 1997
GP who sees adults and children: 36
GP†: 57OB/GYN: 87Other subspecialists: 15
Population: Pregnant Adult Women, 2002GP who sees adults and children: 35
GP†: 61OB/GYN: 87Other subspecialists: 17
Population: GP = general physician.
† =Family physicians, general practitioners, general internists, and general pediatricians.
Source: Information from reference 2.

The proportion of adults who consult with general physicians who see adults and children declined by 3 percent, and the proportion of children declined even further. To the extent that general physicians who see adults and children mostly are family physicians, this finding is consistent with data from other national surveys that reveal a decline in visits to family physicians.3

References

  1. Green LA, Dodoo MS, Ruddy G, Fryer GE, Phillips RL, McCann JL, et al. The physician workforce of the United States: a family medicine perspective. Washington, D.C.: Robert Graham Center, 2004.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey. Analysis by the Robert Graham Center, 2004.
  3. Dodoo MS, Fryer GE, Green LA, Phillips RL, Ruddy GR, McCann JL, et al. Graham Center One-Pager #35. Patterns of visits to physicians' offices in the United States, 1980 to 2003. Washington, D.C.: Robert Graham Center, September 2005.

The information and opinions contained in research from the Graham Center do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the AAFP. 

Published in American Family Physician, Sep 15, 2005. Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(6):1007. This series is coordinated by Sumi Sexton, MD, AFP Associate Medical Editor.