"If there was a place where this would work well, where you would have a good chance of accessing a doctor, it would be in Massachusetts compared to other states. They also have a very robust network of community health centers."
A much-debated solution of to the lack of primary care physicians is advanced practitioners. "We obviously think they are a very important part of the primary care workforce and that would be a very helpful to look at how many additional advanced practitioners we would need to fill the primary care shortage," says Liaw.
According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2010 census, the population of PAs is twice its size from three years ago, at 83,466, with 31% specializing in primary care. The population of APRNs in 2010 practicing was 125,000, with at least 66 percent practicing in primary care, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
These two specialties are also growing at a faster rate than primary care physicians. The number of PAs and APRNs per primary care physician doubled between 1995 and 2009, according to a 2010 report published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"If you were to ask what is the physician assistant suited for most immediately upon graduation, the answer is primary care," says James D. Cannon, DHA, MBA, PA-C, Director-at-Large at the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.
"Because all of our clinical rotations are primary care and our exam is primary care. So we are the most autonomous upon graduation in primary care. It's the specialties where we require an added level of being precepted and proctored."