Number of actively licensed doctors increased in last 6 years

Doctors posing for the camera
The number of actively licensed physicians in the U.S. is on the upswing. (American College of Emergency Physicians)

Despite predictions of a physician shortage, the number of actively licensed physicians in the U.S. has increased by 12% since 2010, according to a new report from the Federation of State Medical Boards.

The 2016 physician census found the total number of licensed physicians grew from 850,085 in 2010 to 953,695 last year, according to the latest report (PDF). Female physicians now account for one-third of all actively licensed physicians.

The physician census is released every two years in the Journal of Medical Regulation and uses data received by the federation from the country’s state medical and osteopathic licensing boards.

Some areas of the country, particularly rural communities, are already feeling effects of a physician shortage, which is expected to worsen in the coming years. The data may help address this issue. “The wealth of data that this census provides can play a significant role in understanding the needs of our healthcare workforce and help to identify areas in which we can innovate and expand access to care," said Gregory Snyder, M.D., chair of the federation’s board of directors, in an announcement (PDF). 

A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges released earlier this year showed a projected shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 doctors by 2030.

RELATED: Physician shortage could hit 100K by 2030

Other key findings of the federation's report include:

  • From 2010 to 2016, the actively licensed U.S. physician-to-population ratio increased from 277 physicians per 100,000-population to 295 physicians per 100,000-population, the census found.
  • The number of actively licensed physicians who are doctors of osteopathic medicine increased by 39% between 2010 and 2016, compared with a 10% increase in the number of medical doctors during the same time period.

RELATED: OB-GYN shortage predicted for U.S. in face of coming retirement wave

  • Female physicians made up 30% of the workforce in 2010, increasing to 34% in 2016.
  • The number of U.S. citizens who graduated from Caribbean medical schools increased by 95% since 2010. In 2010, there were 11,037 actively licensed physicians who were U.S. citizens and Caribbean medical graduates, and in 2016 there are 21,519.

As FierceHealthcare previously reported, some of the 70 for-profit medical schools in the Caribbean are graduating doctors to help solve shortages of primary care doctors.