New Findings Confirm Predictions on Physician Shortage
The latest report on the physician workforce confirms what we’ve been hearing: America doesn’t have enough doctors to meet demand and ensure high-quality patient care—and the physician shortage is only going to get worse.
The United States will see a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032 as demand for physicians continues to grow faster than supply, according to new data published April 23, 2019 by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). The projected shortfall is similar to past
projections and ranges from 46,900 to 121,900 physicians.
“The nation’s population is growing and aging, and as we continue to address population health goals like reducing obesity and tobacco use, more Americans will live longer lives. These factors and others mean we will need more doctors,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD. “Even with new
ways of delivering care, America’s doctor shortage continues to remain real and significant.”
Conducted by the Life Science division of IHS Markit, a global information company, this fifth annual study,
The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2017-2032, includes scenarios that have been refined and updated based on input from stakeholders, and new modeling that examines the impact of emerging health care delivery trends on physician shortages.
Key findings from the AAMC
- The projected
shortage of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2032 includes:
o Primary care physician shortage - between 21,100 and 55,200;
o Specialty care physician shortage - between 24,800 and 65,800. These projections include shortages of between 1,900 and 12,100 medical specialists, 14,300 and 23,400 surgical specialists, and 20,600 and 39,100 other specialists, such as pathologists, neurologists, radiologists, and psychiatrists.
- The major factor
driving demand for physicians continues to be a growing, aging population.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s population is estimated to grow by more than 10% by 2032, with those over age 65 increasing by 48%. Additionally, the aging population will affect physician supply, since one-third of all currently active doctors will be
older than 65 in the next decade. When these physicians decide to retire could have the greatest impact on supply.
- The supply of
physician assistants (PAs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs)
is projected to continue to increase. The report models their role in providing health care. Further research is required on the types of services these professionals are providing, and if, or at what point, the supply of PAs and APRNs will become saturated.
- Emerging health
care delivery trends designed to improve overall population health do not
have a significant effect on physician shortage projections. The report’s first-time analysis of emerging health care delivery trends, including providing better care coordination across settings, reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency visits, increasing use of
advanced practice providers, reducing obesity and tobacco use, and applying managed care models and risk sharing agreements such as Accountable Care Organizations, only reduced demand for physicians by 2032 by 1%. This analysis is presented as new work and will be refined further
before being included in future overall shortage estimates.
- The United States
would need an additional 95,900 doctors immediately if health care use
patterns were equalized across race, insurance coverage, and geographic
location. This shortage would be in addition to the number of providers necessary to meet
demand in Health Professions Shortage Areas (HPSAs) as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration. This additional demand was not included in the production of the overall shortage ranges.
- While rural and
historically underserved areas may experience the shortages more acutely,
the need for more physicians will be felt everywhere. The overall supply of physicians will need to increase more than it is currently projected to in order to meet this demand.
To help address the physician shortage, the bipartisan Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 (
H.R. 1763) has been introduced in Congress to provide increased Medicare support for an additional 3,000 new residency positions each year over the next five years. The AAMC and other physician groups support this legislation as one part of the solution, “to ensure Americans
have access to the care they need when they need it,” Kirch said.
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