Jan 31, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

We often think about doctors in terms of the good work they do from a patient care perspective: After all, they save lives. However, the results of a just-released study from the American Medical Association (AMA) reveal that physicians also have a profound impact on the economy -- more so than professionals in other sectors including law, higher education, and healthcare. Here’s a closer look at the findings.

The Impact of Physicians

According to data analyzed in The National Economic Impact of Physicians, the contributions of physicians are far from limited to patient care. In fact, physicians not only support the economy, but also outpace “comparator industries” across a multitude of measures, including economic output, jobs, and wages and benefits.

Specifically, physicians directly and indirectly produce $2.3 billion nationally -- value thrice that of the legal services industry’s $724.8 billion, followed by nursing and community care facilities, higher education, and home health at $485.6 billion, $415.1 billion, and $225.9 billion, respectively.

Physician-supported employment is also impressive at 12.6 million jobs. Nursing and community care facilities industries take second at 4.4 million, with legal services, higher education, and home health industries rounding out the list a 4.1 million, 2.8 million, and 2.6 million, respectively.

Furthermore, physicians support $1 billion in wages and benefits, compared to the legal services industry at just $254 billion. Nursing and community care facilities, higher education, and home health industries trailed further behind at $191 billion, $159.9 billion, and $94.9 billion, respectively.

Using the Data 

These figures don’t just exist in a vacuum, proposes the AMA, but can be put to use toward positive change.

The report concludes, “Given the rapidly changing healthcare environment, it is critical to quantify the economic impact physicians have on society. This report provides data that can be used by key healthcare policymakers, legislators and thought leaders. It also demonstrates how physician practices both ensure the health and well-being of communities as well as support local economies and enable jobs, growth and prosperity.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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