Doctor Shortages

This post was written by a student. It has not been fact checked or edited.

There are a number of reasons for the projected physician shortage and a number of solutions to the problem have been identified—and they all have one thing in common: the need to get started right away. Because it can take up to a decade to properly educate and train a physician, we need to take action now to ensure we have enough physicians to meet the needs of tomorrow,AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD, wrote in a recent Leadership Viewpoints column. “The health of our nation depends on it.” The U.S. faces a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians within 12 years, according to The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034 (PDF), a report released by the Association of American Medical Colleges AAMC. Between 17,800 and 48,000 primary care physicians . Between 21,000 and 77,100 non-primary care physicians. This includes shortages of: Between 15,800 and 30,200 for surgical specialties. Between 3,800 and 13,400 for medical specialties. Between 10,300 and 35,600 for other specialties.The AAMC reports that physician shortages hamper efforts to remove barriers to care. If populations that are underserved by the health system had health care-use patterns similar to populations with fewer access barriers, the U.S. would be short between 102,400 and 180,400 physicians. “The urgency is now,” Dr. Harmon said during a recent episode of the “AMA Moving Medicine” podcast with Janis M. Orlowski, MD, the AAMC’s chief health care officer. The two engaged in a freewheeling chat that touched on the physician shortage crisis, the solutions to help overcome it, and drew on their own personal experiences in medicine It is imperative to begin working toward a solution as soon as possible. “We talk about a worsening physician shortage, but I want to make sure that people understand that there’s a physician shortage today,” she said, adding that according to data from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration HRSA “there is a shortage right now.” HRSA data studies shortages in primary care and psychiatry and finds significant shortages in both areas today, Dr. Orlowski said, adding that a shortage of general surgeons in rural communities is also a problem. “The way that it will manifest is that people will have increasing difficulty accessing health care and accessing physicians,” she explained. “You probably, anecdotally, have heard stories where someone needed to see a specialist and it took six or eight weeks to see a cardiologist or a GI specialist, and I think that access is going to continue to be more and more difficult.”