U.S. Doctor Shortage Could Hit 139,000 By 2033

By | June 26, 2020

The nation’s shortage of doctors will rise to between 54,000 and 139,000 by 2033 as the U.S. population grows and ages, making it even more difficult to fight public health threats like today’s spread of the coronavirus strain Covid-19.

The latest study of doctor supply by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a lobby for medical schools and teaching hospitals, shows coming “shortfalls in both primary and specialty care.”

“The gap between the country’s increasing health care demands and the supply of doctors to adequately respond has become more evident as we continue to combat the Covid-19 pandemic,” AAMC president and chief executive Dr. David Skorton said in a statement accompanying the analysis by research firm IHS Markit. “The challenge of having enough doctors to serve our communities will get even worse as the nation’s population continues to grow and age.”

Primary care doctors, in particular, are in short supply. The 81-page report estimates that between 21,400 and 55,200 primary care doctors will be needed even as new primary care models proliferate and more Americans receive outpatient care from nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other health professionals.

Family physicians, pediatricians and internists will be more in demand as trends in insurance payment emphasize population health and value-based care making sure patients get more care upfront in a primary care professional’s office or other outpatient setting like an urgent care facility.

The analysis was conducted in 2019 and before the pandemic hit the U.S. healthcare system.

But the AAMC said the pandemic exposed a need for more primary care professionals on the front lines when cities and states sent out emergency calls for retired physicians to return to emergency rooms, outpatient clinics and even help many virtual offices for telehealth services.

Many medical schools also allowed students to graduate early so they could join doctors and nurses to treat Covid-19 patients and fill gaps in care left by specialists who treated outside of their medical disciplines.

“As our health care system continues to treat patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for a strong and sufficient health care workforce is more apparent than ever,” Skorton said. “Specialty physician shortages, especially those that are hospital-based, including critical care, emergency medicine, and pulmonary specialists, are particularly urgent.”

Forbes – Healthcare

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