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Is There a Shortage of Doctors in the US?

Adaptive Medical Partners | Healthcare News

Is There a Shortage of Doctors in the US?

The answer depends on who you ask, though most in the health care industry will answer an emphatic “yes.” For several years, health care organizations have warned that there aren’t enough physicians in the United States to adequately meet patient care demands. Despite some attempts, such as increasing medical school enrollment limits by 30 percent beginning in 2006, to address the anticipated shortage, the looming crisis remains.

Doctor Shortage

Workforce Limitations and Projections

According to annual analysis commissioned by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), projections show a likely shortage of 34,600 to 88,000 doctors by 2025 and a shortfall ranging from 40,800 and 104,900 doctors by 2030.

These future figures are supported by present-day stats that show the United States:

  • Has fewer practicing physicians per 1,000 people than 23 other countries reporting data in 2013.
  • Ranks 30 out of 35 when it comes to number of medical graduates.
  • Has a higher ratio of specialists to generalists than all but one other country.

Many places — nearly half of rural areas — already are experiencing a shortage of primary care practitioners. Almost one in five Americans already live somewhere with too few primary care physicians available to serve their community.

Contributing Factors to Physician Shortage

  • Population growth. Between 2015 and 2030, the U.S. population is projected to increase 12 percent.
  • Aging population. Between 2015 and 2030, the U.S. population 65 years or older is projected to increase by 55 percent as the baby boomer generation hits retirement age. Increased age increases health care needs; about two-thirds of senior citizens have at least one chronic disease, and 20 percent see 14 or more physicians, with an average of 40 visits annually.
  • Retiring physiciansMore than 25 percent of physicians currently practicing are over 60 years of age and likely to retire within the next 10 years.
  • Increased insurance coverage. As more people are covered by insurance, demand increases.
  • Physician burnout. Numerous studies report on the high levels of dissatisfaction experienced by American doctors. They burnout and leave the profession.
  • Insufficient residencies available. Due to federal budget cuts, the number of post-graduate residencies available is inadequate for the number of medical school graduates needing a residency to gain full licensure.
  • Restrictions on immigration. The Trump administration’s immigration policies are expected to negatively impact the workforce, since an estimated one in four U.S. doctors are immigrants.

Impact of Physician Shortage

If a physician shortage occurs, both positive and negative consequences are predicted.

Examples of negative impacts on communities and health facilities:

  • Deterioration of doctor-patient interactions due to time constraints on visits. In order to see more patients, providers would likely spend less time on each patient visit.
  • Increased workload for health care practitioners, leading to overworked, stressed practitioners. These new pressures could worsen burnout and dissatisfaction levels, causing more physicians to leave the profession and thus worsening the existing shortage.
  • Longer wait times for appointments and greater difficulty in accessing primary care providers as well as specialists.
  • Lower utilization of services by underserved populations.

Examples of positive impacts on communities and health facilities:

  • Innovations in delivery of medical care. Health care will be forced to restructure and rethink the provision of care, incorporating more team-based care, group sessions and virtual care.
  • Development of new technologies. Technological breakthroughs and creation of more advanced drugs could lessen the burden on physicians.
  • Expansion of telemedicine. Telemedicine can help facilities more efficiently use the current supply of physicians as well as extend the availability of specialists to rural areas, thus increasing the available pool of providers that patients can access.
  • Empowerment of patients. Patients will be expected to play a larger role in their own care through self-monitoring.
  • Expanded use of mid-level providers. Evidence demonstrates that mid-level providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants are just as effective as doctors in primary care.

This is why our business at Adaptive Medical Partners is becoming a crucial component to hospital administrations across the country. Finding the right physician for the position requires work, talent, and effort, and AMP provides that for our clients. Please contact us today to help you improve your staffing efforts.