New AAMC estimate: US will need up to 90,000 physicians by 2025

In the next 10 years, the nation will need between 46,100 and 90,400 physicians, according to an AAMC study released Tuesday.

The new estimate is lower than a previous 2010 estimate, which projected a shortage of 130,600 physicians by 2025.

The report projected the following key findings.

  • The primary care physician shortage is estimated to be between 12,500 and 31,100 by 2025.
  • The non-primary care physician shortfall will be between 28,200 and 63,700, with the greatest shortages in surgical specialties.
  • Demands placed on the healthcare system from the expansion of health insurance coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will only increase demand for physicians by 2 percent once it is fully implemented.

The study is a microsimulation that projects supply and demand based on the growth and aging of the population, disease fluctuations and other factors. It also projects future physician career decisions based on a variety of factors including current numbers, demographics of new physicians, retirement, specialty distribution, mortality rates and the patterns of hours worked.

The lower range estimates account for the increasing supply of advanced practice nurses, whose ranks are estimated to increase 114,900. The projected shortage decreased from 2010 due to adjustments by the U.S. Census Bureau to the projected population and increased number of physicians completing their graduate medical education, among other factors, according to the report.

"The trends from these data are clear — the physician shortage will grow over the next 10 years under every likely scenario," AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, said in a statement. "Because training a doctor takes between five and 10 years, we must act now, in 2015, if we are going to avoid serious physician shortages in 2025. The solution requires a multi-pronged approach: Continuing to innovate and be more efficient in the way care is delivered as well as increased federal support for graduate medical education to train at least 3,000 more doctors a year to meet the health care needs of our nation's growing and aging population."


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