No relief in sight for growing physician shortage

By Matt Kuhrt

Despite efforts to address the physician shortage, a new report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a continued gap over the next decade, with the supply of both primary and non-primary physicians expected to be outstripped by increased demand.

In all the scenarios modeled in the report, projections show a nationwide shortage of between 61,700 and 94,700 physicians by 2025, results that remain generally in line with the AAMC's 2015 study. "These updated projections confirm that the physician shortage is real, it's significant, and the nation must begin to train more doctors now if patients are going to be able to receive the care they need when they need it in the near future," said AAMC President and CEO Darrel G. Kirch, M.D., in an announcement accompanying the report's release.

Here are some additional key findings behind the report's topline numbers:

  • Overall population growth and the aging of the baby boomers will be the predominant cause of increased demand, while the looming retirement of more than one-third of physicians currently in practice will drive the shortage on the supply side.
  • An expected uptick in the supply of primary care and non-surgical specialists will likely be at least partially offset by a depletion in the number of physicians entering surgical specialties in aggregate, though the report notes a wide variation in projections among individual specialties.
  • Despite the increase in demand from newly insured individuals under the Affordable Care Act, additional barriers to access, especially those rooted in financial, cultural or geographic differences, suggest the physician shortage is actually larger than it looks, Kirch notes.

To learn more:
- see the report
- read the report announcement