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Vital Signs: Physicians Keep the Economy Healthy

hs 2David O. Barbe, MD
President, American Medical Association
Mountain Grove, MO

As physicians, we carry tremendous responsibility as trusted confidants, patient advocates and leaders of the health care team. But our positive impact extends far beyond the exam room. We keep the economy healthy too.

This year, the American Medical Association (AMA) published a study that demonstrates the huge economic impact physicians have made nationally and in each of the 50 states and Washington, DC. The 2018 AMA Economic Impact Study (EIS) shows that America’s physicians play a vital role in national and state economies by supporting jobs, purchasing goods and services, and generating tax revenue. National findings show:

  • Jobs: Physicians’ economic investment supports nearly 12.6 million jobs nationwide – an average of 17.1 for each physician.
  • Economic activity: Physicians generate $2.3 trillion in economic output – the value of the goods and services provided– and help other businesses grow through their own, and their employees’ purchasing. Physicians’ economic activity, and that which they have generated, comprises 13 percent of the total US economy.
  • Wages and benefits: Physicians contribute $1 trillion in total wages and benefits paid to workers across the country, empowering a high quality, sustainable workforce.
  • State and local tax revenue: Physicians’ contributions to the economy generate $92.9 billion in state and local tax revenue for their communities, enabling essential investments.
  • Ripple effect: Every dollar applied to physician services supports an additional $1.84 in other business activity. Nearly 11 additional sector jobs are supported for each one million dollars of revenue generated by a physician’s practice, because physician offices support other businesses by purchasing supplies, equipment and services. Additionally, physicians and their employees are individual consumers, too, further supporting the economy.

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The study also shows physicians’ comparative strength among other economic actors in the community. At the national level, physicians support greater economic output than legal services, home health care, higher education, or nursing home and residential care.

The EIS is a critical tool for educating lawmakers on the economic value of physicians’ practices to states and the nation. The findings make the compelling case that our interests in economic matters are to be taken just as seriously as in clinical matters. It is critical to protect and fortify the programs and policies that help support physicians and allow their practices to thrive.

  • For example, to maintain economic competitiveness, it is imperative for legislators to enact laws that foster a positive practice environment and support a strong and vibrant physician workforce that helps grow the economy. Particularly in rural areas, cultivating a productive practice environment can play a key role in fostering community development, because the physician-supported workforce grows the local economy and may even attracts investment from outside the community.
  • The 2018 AMA Economic Impact Study underscores the need for state legislators to support tomorrow’s physicians, too, by championing medical school loan repayment programs, financing medical school and residency programs, and creating tax incentives to train, recruit, and keep physicians in the state.

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Using this powerful data, we can demonstrate that investment in the physician workforce is an investment in economic development. The EIS data is a powerful advocacy tool on a range of issues – from medical liability reform to unfair payer practices to Medicaid reimbursement. To help physician advocates put the data to good use the AMA has developed a number of tools:

  • You can view an interactive map, full national report, individual reports for all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and data by specialty at
  • Find one-page summaries for each state and a toolkit to help physician advocates incorporate the study’s findings in communication with policymakers to illustrate how their state tangibly benefits when they support physicians.
  • The AMA also has customized social media infographics and ads available to you. Contact the AMA Advocacy Resource Center for more information about these resources.

The EIS is the only 50-state and national study of its kind, providing data on how physicians impact the state and local economy. The study proves that together we ensure that our communities continue to have access to high-quality medical care and build a robust economic base.

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