Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, University of British Columbia, 4th Floor, 2194 Health Sciences Mall, and Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada. email@example.com
Canadians have expressed concern that access to a family physician (FP) has declined precipitously. Yet FP-topopulation ratios remained relatively stable over the last decade, and there were perceptions of physician surpluses, at least in urban centres, 10 years ago. We evaluated whether demographic changes among patients and FPs, and in the volume of care received and provided over the period, contribute to this paradox. Given the relationship between age and FP use in fiscal year 1991/1992, an aging population should have been associated with a 2 per cent increase in visits by 2000/2001. Likewise, given the relationship between FP age and workloads in 1991/1992, an aging workforce should have been associated with a 12 per cent increase in service provision a decade later. Yet visit rates and average FP workloads remained unchanged. There was an increase in age-specific rates of FP use among older adults and a decline in rates among the young, and an increase in age-specific workloads such that older FPs provided many more services than their predecessors (30%) and younger FPs provided many fewer (20%). In terms of impact on future requirements for FPs, both changes in age-specific rates of use, and changes in age-specific patterns of FP productivity, trump population aging as key drivers.