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The List: How NJ Stacks up Against Other States In Medical Specialists

NJ has the fourth-highest number of anesthesiologists per capita, while family doctors rank a disturbing 45th

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Whether New Jersey will have enough doctors to meet the growing demand for medical services is a long-running discussion in state health-policy circles.

The issue has been a particular source of concern for the state’s family doctors, who have cited the relatively high costs of practicing in the state -- as well as the relatively low pay compared to doctors who specialize in other areas.

Using data from the Kaiser Family Foundation about the number of doctors practicing in each state, along with the latest U.S. Census population estimates, this list backs up the family doctors’ concerns.

While New Jersey is 13th among the states in the number of doctors per 100,000 residents, it is 45th in family doctors. But this low showing doesn’t hold true for other primary-care field: internists, obstetricians/gynecologists, and pediatricians are all relatively common in New Jersey in comparison with other states.

The following list ranks the specialties and practice areas in order of how they stack up against other states. For example, anesthesiologists are first on the list because their rank -- fourth -- compared with other states is higher than New Jersey doctors from any other specialty or practice area.

Kaiser tracked seven medical specialties and four primary-care fields, while including all other specialties in a separate category. The healthcare information is from November 2012, while the population estimate is for July 2013.

1. Anesthesiologists (4th)

New Jersey has 16.6 anesthesiologists per 100,000 residents, behind only Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York (Washington, D.C., would rank as having the highest concentration of doctors in nearly every specialty or practice area if it was a state).

2. Cardiologists and pediatricians (tie, 6th)

New Jersey has 11.8 cardiologists and 29.6 pediatricians per 100,000 residents, ranking sixth in both areas. One factor that may contribute to the large number of doctors in the state is its proximity to the medical-education centers of New York City and Philadelphia. The states of New York and Pennsylvania are among the five with more cardiologiists than New Jersey, while New York also has more pediatricians.

4. Endocrinologists, diabetes, and metabolism specialists/internists (tie, 7th)

The percentage of endocrinologists and internal medicine specialists per 100,000 New Jersey residents is the seventh highest in the country. However there is a big difference in actual numbers -- only 2.5 endocrinologists/100,000 compared with 64.7 internists/100,000. While internal medicine was traditionally considered a primary-care area, many internists subspecialize and have more in common with other specialists than with primary-care doctors.

6. Obstetricians/gynecologists (8th)

Like pediatricians, ob-gyns are relatively common in New Jersey when compared with the largest primary-care field, family doctors. There are 16.3 ob-gyns per 100,000 New Jersey residents, significantly higher than the 14.2 per 100,000 national average.

7. Psychiatrists, (11th)

There are 16.6 psychiatrists per 100,000 New Jerseyans, well above the national average of 15 per 100,000.

8. Oncologists and all other specialists (tie,16th)

There are 4.3 oncologists per 100,000 state residents, while there are 68.9 doctors in all other specialties. When considering all non-primary-care specialties, New Jersey ranks 13th in the country. While this number may appear to be impressive, the ranking is lower every other Northeastern state, except New Hampshire.

10. Surgeons ( 24th)

New Jersey’s 14.0 surgeons per 100,000 residents ranks just below the national average of 14.3 per 100,000.

11. Emergency medicine doctors (32nd)

Emergency medicine is the only non-primary-care specialty in which New Jersey is well below the national average, with 11.9 ER doctors per 100,000, compared with 13.1 nationally. This statistic lends support to the “D-plus” grade the American College of Emergency Physicians gave the state in January, citing declining access to emergency care and the state’s malpractice laws.

12. Family and general practice (45th)

Raymond Saputelli, executive director of the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, was not surprised that family doctors in New Jersey would have the worst national ranking compared with other specialties and practice areas.

“That number could be even worse,” considering that some doctors who list family medicine as their specialty actually work in hospitals in areas other than primary care, Saputelli said. The high cost of being a primary-care doctor in New Jersey make the state’s environment “toxic” when compared with other states, he said. “From the very beginning, we don’t bring enough students who are predisposed to primary care into the medical schools,” he said.

There are 24.6 family doctors per 100,000 residents, while the national average is 37 per 100,000.

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