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AAMC Projects Physician Shortage in the United States

06 March 2015 Will Iacobucci

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), an organization that represents the accredited medical schools and teaching hospitals in the United States and Canada, turned heads on Tuesday after announcing that by 2025 the U.S. will face a shortage of between 46,000 and 90,000 physicians. AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, stated: "The doctor shortage is real - it's significant - and it's particularly serious for the kind of medical care that our aging population is going to need."

The workforce projections used IHS's microsimulation models to project the future supply and demand for physicians by specialty category (primary care, medical specialties, surgical specialties, and other specialties), and reported shortages for each group.

The shortage range reflects uncertainties about which healthcare trends will be adopted in the future. Scenarios modeled included: changing demographics, expanded health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), greater use of retail walk-in clinics, increased use of advanced practice nurses, greater integration of care delivery across care settings and providers, and patterns of physician retirements and work hours.

Overall, demand for physicians is projected to increase by 11-17% between 2013 and 2025 with population growth and aging (and the accompanying rise in prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease) responsible for 14% growth and final implementation of the Affordable Care Act only accounts for 2% growth. Physician supply was also projected to increase over this period, albeit by only 9%, thus resulting in a growing physician shortage.

The Shortage
Across all specialties, the total shortage falls between 46,000 and 90,000 physicians.

  • Primary Care: shortage of 12,500 to 31,100 physicians
  • Non-Primary Care: shortage of 28,200 and 63,700 physicians
    • Medical Specialties: Shortage of 5,100 to 12,300 physicians
    • Surgical Specialties: Shortage of 23,100 to 31,600 physicians
    • Other Specialties: 2,400 to 20,200 physicians

The range for physicians overall is smaller than the sum of the ranges for individual specialty categories reflecting that some care in the future could be provided by primary care physicians under one scenario and by specialists under another scenario.

Implications and Next Steps
Dr. Janis Orlowski, Chief Healthcare Officer at AAMC, called for more congressional support in addressing the shortage, noting that the country needs to be training at least 3,000 more physicians per year to help mitigate the growing shortfall. Addressing the shortfall will require not just training more physicians, but also using more advanced practice nurses, physician assistants and other care providers.

If the shortfall persists, patients will face longer wait times, which can delay diagnoses, and rural hospitals - which have recently had trouble recruiting physicians - will continue having recruitment troubles.

Read the full report

For more coverage of the AAMC physician shortage projections:

Forbes Magazine: U.S. Doctor Shortage Could Hit 90,000 By 2025

Washington Post: U.S. faces 90,000 doctor shortage by 2025, medical school association warns

Will Iacobucci is an analyst on the Life Sciences consulting team at IHS
Posted 6 March 2015

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