Physician workforce projections show that the US doctor shortage remains significant

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The USA will face a shortage of between 46,000­–90,000 physicians by 2025, according to a report released by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). The study, which is the first comprehensive national analysis that takes into account both demographics and recent changes to care delivery and payment methods, projects shortages in both primary and specialty care, with specialty shortages particularly acute.

“The doctor shortage is real, it is significant, and it is particularly serious for the kind of medical care that our aging population is going to need,” said AAMC president and chief executive officer Darrell G Kirch.

The study, conducted for the AAMC by the Life Science division of global information company IHS, presents projections in ranges that reflect the potential impact of a variety of health care delivery and policy scenarios, including the rapid growth in non-physician clinicians and new payment and delivery models such as patient-centred medical homes and accountable care organisations.

Projections for individual specialties were aggregated into four broad categories: primary care, medical specialties, surgical specialties, and other specialties. Within the overall projected physician shortage, the study estimates a shortage of 12,000–31,000 primary care physicians, and a shortfall of 28,000–63,000 non-primary care physicians, most notably among surgical specialists.

“The trends from these data are clear—the physician shortage will grow over the next 10 years under every likely scenario,” said Kirch. “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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