Why America's physician shortage could top 120k by 2030: 5 things to know

The U.S. could face a shortage of more than 121,000 physicians by 2030, according to updated data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The estimate is higher than AAMC's 2030 projections published last year.

"This year's analysis reinforces the serious threat posed by a real and significant doctor shortage," AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, said in a statement. "With the additional demand from a population that will not only continue to grow but also age considerably over the next 12 years, we must start training more doctors now to meet the needs of our patients in the future."

Here are five key findings from the 2018 report.

1. The 2018 report projects a shortage of 42,600 to 121,300 physicians by 2030. This compares to the 2017 report, which projected a 2030 shortage of 40,800 to 104,900 physicians. This year's projections take into account recently revised federal Health Profession Shortage Area designations for primary care and mental health, the AAMC said.

2. The U.S. faces a potential shortage of 14,800 to 49,300 primary care physicians by 2030. This is higher than the projected shortfall in the 2017 report — a shortage of 7,300 to 43,100 primary care physicians by 2030. AAMC said differences in estimations regarding the projected growth in the supply of physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses contributed to the higher numbers in the 2018 report, as did PCP supply and demand trends, among other factors.

3. The U.S. faces a potential shortage of 33,800 to 72,700 physicians in non-primary care specialties. This includes a potential shortfall of 20,700 to 30,500 physicians in 2030 for surgical specialties. AAMC attributed the projections to an aging population requiring more complex care as well as a stagnant supply of surgical specialists and other factors.

4. AAMC cites population growth and aging as the primary drivers of the projected physician shortage from 2016 to 2030. The AAMC analysis accounted for projections suggesting the U.S. population will grow nearly 11 percent by 2030, with the population of Americans older than 65 increasing by 50 percent. The organization also accounted for the potential influence of physician retirement in its projections. More than one-third of all currently active physicians will be older than 65 in the next 10 years.

5. Improved access to care would increase the need for physicians. The AAMC estimates suggest the nation would have needed 31,600 more physicians in 2016 if people living in non-metropolitan areas and the uninsured used care the same way as those with coverage in metropolitan areas.

Access the full AAMC report here


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