Dr. Mathews, professor of health policy/health care delivery in the Division of Community Health and Humanities, explained that the measurement of physician to population ratio is often used to compare the supply of physicians in different provinces and countries.
“Although it is easy to calculate, this measurement provides little information about the actual workforce that serves a population,” she said, noting that some of the questions not covered by the physician to population ratio include turnover, the number of unfilled positions, and the needed number of different types of physicians.
To find answers to these questions, Dr. Mathews will develop new measures such as stickiness, inflow and outflow, in order to consider and compare the stability of the physician workforce and the characteristics of the physicians who enter, stay or leave the workforce in a given time period. “We will look at communities that are ‘sticky’ or retain their physicians, versus communities with high turnover, and examine how physician turnover affects health and wellbeing.”
Dr. Mathews said the measurements will be calculated for geographic regions and for physician specialties. “To validate these measures, we will compare the stickiness measures in each local area to physician availability data collected in previous surveys such as the Canadian Community Health Survey. Our study will provide a valuable tool that will help manage physicians supply in different regions in Canada.”
With the help of additional funding from the dean of medicine, Dr. James Rourke, the 2012 MRF Research Development Grants have been increased to $20,000. Dr. Mathews said this funding will allow her to do initial work on measuring physician workforce, which can lead to getting larger national grants for further research in this area.