Long COVID-19 + a depleting workforce; University of Augusta's Dr. Darshak Karia on cardiology's next biggest issues

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Currently, there are not enough graduating cardiology fellows to replace the aging cardiology workforce — one of the specialty's greatest challenges today, according to Darshak Karia, MD, director of the heart failure program, and director of mechanical circulatory support devices at the University of Augusta (Ga.) 

Dr. Karia recently joined Becker's cardiology and heart surgery podcast to discuss some of the biggest issues in cardiology, what the specialty can expect in the near future and more. 

Three takeaways from the discussion: 

1. More than 31 percent of U.S. cardiologists today are older than 61, Dr. Karia said. Traditionally, the number of cardiology fellows graduating and entering the workforce matched up with the number of those retiring, which is typically around 500. "What we are now facing is sort of a depleting cardiology workforce," Dr. Karia said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many older cardiologists' plans for retirement. 

2. Cardiology as a whole may not have the capacity to take care of COVID-19 long haulers with heart issues, he said, citing previous studies that estimate between 10 percent to 30 percent of COVID-19 patients develop long-term issues. In the U.S., there have been at least 32 million confirmed cases. If 10 percent of those were to develop cardiac issues, "you just don't have the bandwidth to take care of all these people," Dr. Karia said, adding that "we are going to have to climb out of this with a lot of work." 

3. During the next 18 months, market consolidation will likely accelerate, Dr. Karia predicted. "We're seeing more and more rural and small hospitals closing," he said. "A lot of hospital systems that survived the pandemic are growing and consolidating to take over other smaller struggling hospitals." 

Click here to listen to the full episode. 

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