New AAMC report highlights physician shortage

June 29, 2020

The United States could see a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care, by 2033, according to new data published by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

That total projected shortage includes between 21,400 and 55,200 in primary care, 9,300 and 17,800 in medical specialties, and between 17,100 and 28,700 in surgical specialties. In the “other” medical-specialties category, which includes radiology, pathology and psychiatry, the study’s authors estimate a total shortage of between 17,100 and 41,900 physicians in total.

The sixth annual study, The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2018-2033, was conducted prior to the rise of COVID-19 for the AAMC by the life science division of IHS Markit, a global information company. This analysis was conducted in 2019.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, physician shortages were already being felt by American consumers, according to another AAMC study. In that public opinion research, which was conducted in September 2019 by Public Opinion Strategies for the AAMC, 35 percent of respondents said they had trouble finding a doctor in the past two or three years. This is a 10-point jump from when the question was asked in 2015.

Other key findings from the current report on physician shortages include:

·        A growing and rapidly aging population will be a primary driver of rising demand for physicians between 2018 and 2033. During this period, the U.S. population is projected to grow by 10.4 percent from about 327 million to 361 million.

·         A large portion of the current physician workforce is nearing traditional retirement age. More than two out of five active physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade.

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