The US is facing a serious shortage of physicians that could worsen in the coming years, according to a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
The report projects that the US could see a shortfall of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033, affecting both primary and specialty care fields. The report cites two main demographic factors that contribute to the shortage: an aging population that requires more health care services and an aging physician workforce that is nearing retirement.
According to the report, the population in the US is estimated to grow by about 11 percent from 2016 to 2030, while the over-65 population is expected to grow by 45.1 percent. This means that more people will need care for complex and chronic conditions, such as neurology, psychiatry, pulmonary and critical-care medicine.
Meanwhile, more than two out of five active physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade, and many may choose to retire early due to burnout or health concerns. The report also notes that there are not enough medical school seats and postgraduate training positions to meet the demand for new physicians.
The physician shortage has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put immense strain on the health care system and exposed existing disparities in access to care. The report states that more than 83 million people in the US live in a designated primary-care health professional shortage area (HPSA), and more than 14,800 practitioners are needed to remove the HPSA designation.
The shortage of physicians can have negative consequences for patients and communities, such as delays in access to care, poorer health outcomes, higher costs, and lower satisfaction. The report urges policymakers and stakeholders to take action to address the shortage by increasing funding for medical education and training, expanding telemedicine and team-based care models, improving physician well-being and retention, and promoting health equity and diversity in the workforce.