Physician shortage: The numbers keep climbing, now estimated at 122,000 by 2032

Healthcare innovation
For the fifth year in a row, an AAMC study predicts a growing shortage of physicians in the U.S. (Getty/LightFieldStudios)

There’s no good news when it comes to predictions of a physician shortage.

The estimates continue to climb, as the country will see a shortage of up to 122,000 physicians by 2032, according to a new report (PDF) from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The demand for physicians will continue to grow faster than the supply, according to the new data published today by the AAMC.

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The projected shortfall is similar to past projections, as the group last year said the physician shortage could hit 120,000 by 2030.

In the latest report, the country will see a shortage ranging from 46,900 to 121,900 doctors by 2032, which will include both primary care and specialties.

“Even with new ways of delivering care, America’s doctor shortage continues to remain real and significant,” Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC’s president and CEO said in an announcement.

“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,” Kirch said.

Here are some additional findings from the report:

  • By 2030, the study estimates 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.
     
  • Among specialists, the report projects a shortage 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 supply of physician assistants (PAs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) is projected to continue to increase. 
     
  • While rural and historically underserved areas may experience the shortages more acutely, the need for more physicians will be felt everywhere. 

As it has in the past, the AAMC said it supports passing legislation that would increase federal support for an additional 3,000 new residency positions each year over the next five years. 

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