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Open Access Research

Projecting Thailand physician supplies between 2012 and 2030: application of cohort approaches

Rapeepong Suphanchaimat1*, Thunthita Wisaijohn1, Noppakun Thammathacharee2 and Viroj Tangcharoensathien1

Author Affiliations

1 International Health Policy Program, Ministry of Public Health, Tiwanon Road, Nonthaburi, 11000, Thailand

2 Health Insurance Systems Research Office, Ministry of Public Health, Tiwanon Road, Nonthaburi, 11000, Thailand

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Human Resources for Health 2013, 11:3  doi:10.1186/1478-4491-11-3

Published: 1 February 2013

Abstract

Background

This study forecasts physician supply between 2012 and 2030 using cohort analysis, based on future production capacity and losses from the profession, and assesses if, and by when, the projected numbers of physicians would meet the targets of one doctor per 1,500 population, as proposed by the 7th National Conference on Medical Education in 2001, and one per 1,800, proposed by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in 2004.

Methods

We estimated the annual loss rate that best reflected the dynamics of existing practising doctors, then applied this rate to the existing physicians, plus the newly licensed physicians flowing into the pool over the next two decades (from 2012 to 2030). Finally, the remaining practising physicians, after adjustment for losses, were verified against demand projections in order to identify supply gaps.

Results

Thailand has been experiencing an expansion in the total number of physicians, with an annual loss rate of 1%. Considering future plans for admission of medical students, the number of licensed physicians flowing into the pool should reach 2,592 per annum, and 2,661 per annum, by 2019 and 2030 respectively. By applying the 1% loss rate to the existing, and future newly licensed, physicians, there are forecast to be around 40,000 physicians in active clinical service by 2016, and in excess of 60,000 by 2028.

Conclusion

This supply forecast, given various assumptions, would meet the targets outlined above, of one doctor per 1,800 population, and one per 1,500 population, by 2016 and 2020 respectively. However, rapid changes in the contextual environment, e.g. economic demand, physician demographics, and disease burden, may mean that the annual loss rate of 1% used in this projection is not accurate in the future. To ensure population health needs are met, parallel policies on physician production encompassing both qualitative and quantitative aspects should be in place. Improved, up-to-date information and establishment of a physician cohort study are recommended.

Keywords:
Cohort analysis; Annual loss rate; Physician projection; Physician to population ratio