U.S. to Face Imminent Shortage of Physicians
A report by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) in 2016 states that the United States will face a shortage of physicians in the coming years. Some specialties that will be in especially high demand and low supply include psychiatry and general surgery.1 Even though the absolute number of physicians will increase, it will not increase enough to accommodate the increased medical needs of an aging population. As a result, the AAMC predicts a shortage of between 61,700 and 94,700 physicians over the next decade.1
The main reason for the AAMC’s projection of a shortage is that a growing portion of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65, as the generation dubbed the “Baby Boomers” (those born between 1946 and 1964) grows older.2 The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the population of individuals aged 65-74 will grow by 74%, while the population of those younger than 65 will increase by 24%.2 AAMC president and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD describes the effect of this increasingly aging population on the shortage as “multipronged.”1 As the general population gets older, “patients will requires two to three times the amount of specialty care to treat chronic illness”, according to Kirch.1 In other words, the demand for physicians’ services will increase. Additionally, the age distribution of the physician workforce follows the same trend as that of the general population. Because of this, doctors will retire in the upcoming years, thereby decreasing the supply of physicians and increasing the magnitude of the shortage.1
There are multifarious reasons for the impending shortage of physicians, both on the supply and demand side. It will be interesting to see how the healthcare sector will change as a result of these predictions.
1. "New Research Confirms Looming Physician Shortage." New Research Confirms Looming Physician Shortage - News Releases - Newsroom - AAMC. April 5, 2016. Accessed January 10, 2017. https://www.aamc.org/newsroom/newsreleases/458074/2016_workforce_projections_04052016.html.
2. “Aging in the United States—past, present, and future.” United States Bureau of the Census. Accessed January 10, 2017. https://www.census.gov/population/international/files/97agewc.pdf