Background: This report examined the financial health of departments of family medicine in US allopathic medical schools.
Methods: We conducted a survey of departments of family medicine at US medical schools, using academic year 1997-1998 as the index year. A total of 52 (46%) of medical schools that have a department of family medicine responded to the survey. The survey examined sources of revenue and categories of expenditures. Analysis assessed the overall financial status of departments at that period of time.
Results: Responding departments of family medicine received 32% of their funding from state or university sources and an additional 32% of funding from clinical services. Grants and hospital support comprised another 17% each. Departments in public institutions received higher levels of support from hospitals (22% of revenue versus 8% for private schools). The overall balance sheets for departments of family medicine showed that 56% of departments have financial reserves, while 19% had no reserves but no debt. Twenty-five percent of all departments were in debt, including 2% with debt exceeding $1 million.
Conclusions: The majority of departments of family medicine remain fiscally healthy, but these departments are dependent on funds from state and medical school sources. A substantial proportion of departments are in debt. Lower levels of grant support and the difficulty in increasing clinical revenue may create future funding problems for primary care faculty as medical schools increase dependence on these sources of income.