Americans are living longer — But we may not have enough physicians

The U.S. could face a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“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,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, in a news release. “Even with new ways of delivering care, America’s doctor shortage continues to remain real and significant.”

The new data is part of a fifth annual study conducted by the life sciences division of IHS Markit, a global information company, and includes insights on changes expected in the physician workforce by 2032.

Seven takeaways from the study:

1. The projected shortfall for 2032 ranges from 46,900 to 121,900 physicians and is similar to the projected shortfall for 2030 of 44,900 to 121,300 physicians in the 2018 report.

2. The latest study’s projected shortfall includes primary care (between 21,100 and 55,200) and specialty care (between 24,800 and 65,800).

3. The projected shortfall for 2032 comes as demand growth for physicians continues to outpace supply growth, according to the study.

4. Association officials said the primary driver of increasing demand for physicians through 2032 is still demographics — particularly, population growth and aging.

5. Achieving population health goals — such as reducing excess body weight and reducing smoking  — will increase demand for physicians in the long term, according to the study. “Although prevention efforts likely will reduce demand for some specialties, like endocrinology, demand for other specialties, like geriatric medicine, will increase,” AAMC added.

6. Regarding supply, IHS Markit analyzed American Medical Association data and found that more than two out of five currently active physicians will be 65 or older within 10 years, and changes in physician retirement decisions could affect supply the most.

7. The AAMC, along with more than 70 healthcare stakeholders, is backing legislation that would help address the national physician workforce shortage by adding 15,000 Medicare-supported residency positions between 2021 and 2025.

Access the full study here.


More articles on physician issues:
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Physician mothers do more housework than spouses, study finds
Washington University to offer free tuition for some incoming med students

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