Healthcare workforce lost 333,942 providers in 2021

An estimated 333,942 healthcare providers dropped out of the workforce in 2021, according to an Oct. 20 report from Definitive Healthcare. 

Definitive Healthcare analyzed medical claims data, based on the numbers of providers billing each year, in July and August 2022 to arrive at the annual estimate of providers' workforce departures. Here are three additional key takeaways from the report, which can be found in full here

1. Definitive found 117,000 physicians left the workforce in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to its analysis of medical claims. It also estimates 53,295 nurse practitioners, 22,704 physician assistants, 22,032 physical therapists and 15,578 licensed clinical social workers dropped out of the workforce in 2021. 

2. The physician specialties hit hardest by workforce exits are internal medicine (-15,000 providers), family practice (-13,015), clinical psychology (-10,874), chiropractic (-10,662), psychiatry (-8,629), optometry (-8,292), anesthesiology (-7,459), pediatric medicine (-7,330) and emergency medicine (-5,530). Combined, these nine specialties saw the loss of 86,791 physicians in 2021, according to Definitive's analysis. 

3. Many physicians across several medical specialties are on the verge of retirement or approaching that age. Definitive analyzed its data to find the specialties and roles with the highest average provider age: chiropractic (61 years old), nurse and nurse practitioner (57 years), surgery (55 years), internal medicine (53 years) and anesthesiology (53 years). The average age of healthcare providers is 50 or older for psychiatry, physician assistants, family practice, pediatric medicine and emergency medicine. 

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