California's Primary Care Workforce: Forecasted Supply, Demand, and Pipeline of Trainees, 2016-2030


Joanne Spetz, Janet Coffman and Igor Geyn

August 15, 2017

This second report in a series of three Healthforce Center reports on primary care in California, unveils projections of a statewide primary care clinician shortfall in the next 15 years, with the most severe shortages in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern Border areas.

Key Findings

  • By 2030 demand for primary care clinicians in California to increase by 12% to 17% above the current demand.
  • Physician supply will decline between 2016 and 2030 in nearly every supply scenario estimated.
  • By 2030, NPs and PAs will comprise nearly half of California’s full-time equivalent (FTE) primary care clinicians. 

“California faces a looming shortage of primary care clinicians in the coming decades,” said Healthforce Research Faculty Member Janet Coffman. “If we continue along our current path, more and more Californians will need to visit the emergency room for conditions like asthma, ear infections or flu because they lack a primary care provider.”

Implications/Next Steps

California needs to closely monitor the supply of primary care clinicians and to develop strategies to fill potential gaps between supply and demand that may arise as soon as 2025. 

Strategies at the national, state and regional level to fill the potential gap between primary care demand and supply include:

  • Actively recruiting primary care physicians to practice in California;
  • Expanding primary care residency programs, particularly in the regions at greatest risk for long-term shortages;
  • Improving retention of physicians, particularly younger physicians;
  • Ensuring 3-7 percent annual growth in graduations from NP and PA education programs so the number of graduates keeps pace with projected demand;
  • Expanding team-based primary care models that maximize the use of all clinicians, and supporting alignment of insurance reimbursement with team-based care; and
  • Ensuring scope-of-practice regulations for NPs and PAs maximize their capacity to provide primary care and to work at the highest level of their education and knowledge.

The first report in our primary care series explored current supply, characteristics and pipeline of primary care providers in California.