Physician Shortage Persists
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), by 2032, the United States will see a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians as demand continues to grow faster than supply. “Even with new ways of delivering care, America’s doctor shortage continues to remain real and significant,” said Darrel G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC’s president and CEO. The major factor driving demand for physicians continues to be a growing, aging population. Plus, one-third of active doctors will be older than 65, within the next decade, facing retirement and further impacting supply.
An analysis conducted by IHS Markit estimates a shortfall of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2032. This includes a shortfall of between 21,100 and 55,200 primary care physicians, and an even greater shortfall of specialists, projected at between 24,800 and 65,800. While the need for more physicians will be experienced nationally, the shortages will be felt more acutely in rural, and historically underserved areas.
To help address the physician shortage, Congress introduced the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019, to provide increased Medicare funding for graduate medical education for an additional 3,000 new residency positions per year over the next five years.
The problem may be ameliorated as the supply of Physicians Assistants (PAs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) is projected to continue to grow.
While the healthcare system could additionally be improved by increasing efficiency by relying more on midlevel practitioners like PAs and APRNs, and taking advantage of advances in technology like telehealth, new drugs, and devices that lessen the burden on physician visits, the IHS Markit report’s analysis reflects that these emerging healthcare delivery trends will not have a significant impact on physician shortage projections.
Also, physician shortages exacerbate another problem - physician burnout. A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in conjunction with the American Medical Association (AMA) found that physicians remain at increased risk for burnout when compared to workers in other professions.