The average doctor in private practice in Washington is likely to be a man between 35 and 44 who has an office near Farragut Square and is a specialist rather than a provider of general medical services, according to a new city survey of physicians.
The survey of 1,269 private practice doctors found that during 1981 most had their offices downtown and west of Rock Creek Park, in Wards 2 and 3. Wards 7 and 8, east of the Anacostia River, had the fewest doctors' offices. Like other major cities, Washington has more specialists than generalists: 742 specialists and 527 primary care doctors.
While it draws no conclusions about how the physician distribution affects overall medical care here, the study report cites one national report that found that 90 percent of patients' problems do not require a medical specialist.
The most popular types of practices here, according to the survey, are internal medicine, 18 percent of the total surveyed; psychiatry, 15 percent; general surgery, 12 percent; obstetrics and gynecology, 12 percent, and pediatrics, 5 percent. Last year, the American Psychiatric Association said there were more psychiatrists per capita in Washington than any other metropolitan area in the world.
Internists, family and general practitioners, obstetricians, gynecologists and pediatricians are considered providers of primary medical care. Nonprimary care refers to 44 other categories such as surgery, neurology and psychiatry.
While most medical specialties are more than well-represented in the city, Larry DeNeal, who prepared the report, said he is concerned that the survey only found two geriatric specialists. Like the rest of the country, Washington's population is getting older and will require more physicians who are familiar with the particular needs of the elderly, DeNeal said.
The average doctor in the study, which included only physicians in full-time private practice, was 35 to 44 years old, slightly younger than the national average, according to the report. These younger physicians are also leaning towards participating in group practices. This may be a trend aimed at reducing the overhead costs of running a solo practice, the report said.
According to the study, the most popular locations for doctor's offices are near Farragut Square and areas in and around Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues NW. Many of these doctors are located near George Washington University where many have faculty appointments at the medical school, said DeNeal.
"They are near the places where they can hospitalize someone," said Dr. Arthur Hoyte, the city's commissioner of public health. Hoyte, who has reviewed the study, said that large numbers of physicians tend to cluster near major hospitals and medical schools.
"Every city has a K Street," he said referring to the GW Hospital cluster. Many physicians associated with Georgetown University Hospital have offices in Foxhall Village, and Howard University doctors are on Georgia and Florida avenues, Hoyte said.
The Physician Manpower Study was prepared by DeNeal and Mary Lynn Gist, public health analysts for the D.C. State Health Planning and Development Agency. It did not evaluate health care available from private or public community health centers or hospitals.
The report said that Wards 2, 3 and 4 each have enough private doctors, including specialists, to serve the needs of their residents. However, Wards 2 and 3 are the only areas of the city with "a sufficient supply of primary-care practitioners."
The report based its definition of sufficient supply on a 1972 study printed in the New England Journal of Medicine that said that 1.3 physicians are needed for every 1,000 residents.