A: There are many sources of health workforce data. Some sources have known and documented limitations. It is important to understand the data’s purpose and how they are collected, verified, and updated.
There are 2 reports that describe multiple data sources:
- The Health Workforce Analysis Guide, 2016 Edition lists selected federal, nonfederal, and state data sources, and has a brief section on general data limitations.
- The Compendium of Federal Data Sources to Support Health Workforce Analysis (2017) contains information on individual data sets such as NPPES, MEPS, and NHANES. Some of the sources included in the Compendium are freely available. Others require an application, data use agreement, and/or payment.
Selected federal sources:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a commonly used federal data source included in the compendium. The BLS tracks employment by industry and occupations, projects future employment, houses the Current Population Survey, and provides other employment statistics. A known limitation is that the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics data count jobs, not workers, and excludes workers who are self-employed, unemployed, or in certain industries. Professions with a large number of self-employed workers, such as physicians and dentists, may be underestimated, while professions with workers that work 2 or more part-time jobs, such as dental hygienists, may be overestimated. The Current Population Survey, which surveys households, is another commonly-used dataset from BLS that is used to estimate health workforce statistics.
The Area Health Resource File (AHRF) is a publicly available dataset that aggregates data from disparate data sources. It contains county-level and state-level data on healthcare workers and other demographic and health-related variables. Some variables based on data from the American Dental Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association are subject to copyright restrictions.
Selected nonfederal sources:
Professional associations, such as the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA) conduct their own surveys and maintain databases (eg, “Masterfiles”) for administrative and analytic uses. These data sources are often proprietary and available for purchase under strict data use agreements.
SK&A maintains databases on physicians and other healthcare practitioners. They claim that the lists are verified every 6 months and updated monthly, and that mailing lists are guaranteed 100% deliverable.
Another nonfederal data source is Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts. Like the AHRF, this source reports aggregated data on providers, service use, and other useful health-related variables obtained from outside resources.
States may or may not collect their own workforce-related data. The State Health Workforce Data Collection Inventory lists states that collect data on health workforce supply, demand, and/or education.