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We have a physician shortage, and it's getting worse

May 1, 2019

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We have a physician shortage, and it's getting worse

May 1, 2019

Shortfalls in primary care providers could hit 55,200 by 2032, while specialty care providers could run a 65,800 deficit.


Between a growing and aging population and longer life spans, there will be nearly 122,000 fewer physicians than are needed by 2032.


That’s according to new data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, which has previously projected similar shortfalls ranging from 46,900 to 121,900 physicians.


The study, The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2017-2032, finds that shortfalls in primary care physicians could range from 21,100–55,200, while among specialty care providers the numbers span 24,800–65,800. The report also projects a medical specialist shortage of 1,900–12,100; a surgical specialist shortage of 14,300–23,400; and among other specialists, such as pathologists, neurologists, radiologists and psychiatrists, a shortage of 20,600–39,100 by 2032.


The biggest demand comes from a population that’s both aging and growing, with U.S. Census Bureau figures projecting that the overall U.S. population is expected to grow by more than 10 percent by 2032. But the boost to the aging population—those 65 and older—is expected to rise by 48 percent.


And when you remove doctors  who will themselves be 65 or older in the next 10 years from the picture, that cuts the existing actively practicing physician population by a third. Depending on when those doctors choose to retire, the impact on the supply of practicing doctors could be major.


If there were enough doctors so that everyone had access, regardless of race, insurance coverage and geographic location, the country would need 95,900 additional physicians immediately, the report found. And that shortage, it adds, “would be in addition to the number of providers necessary to meet demand in Health Professions Shortage Areas as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration. This additional demand was not included in the production of the overall shortage ranges.” The shortages will be worse in rural and historically underserved areas, but will be felt everywhere.


There will, however, likely be more physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses, but more research is necessary to see exactly which services they provide or = when those specialties will hit their saturation points.




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