Is there an impending shortage of anesthesiologists? — 7 takeaways

To explore whether there is an impending shortage of anesthesiologists, Anesthesia Business Consultants President and CEO Tony Mira reviewed new data and revealed the implications for anesthesia groups and practitioners.

Here are seven takeaways:

1. A 2010 RAND Corp. study predicted an anesthesiologist shortage between 4,500 and 12,500 physicians by 2020.

2. A Merritt Hawkins study found healthcare organizations are increasingly looking for specialists. Anesthesiologists were among the top 20 most requested recruitment searches, according to the report.

3. In April, an American Association of Medical Colleges report predicted a shortfall of 33,800 to 72,700 physicians across specialties — including anesthesiology — by 2030.

4. AAMC's study predicted population health goals will result in a need for 17,300 full-time equivalent physicians.

5. A decrease in the number of weekly work hours among physicians between 2002 and 2016 could slash the number of FTE physicians needed by 32,500 by 2030.

6. The physician supply issue is a distribution problem, according to Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, department of medical ethics and health policy chair at Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania.. He said rural areas have always had more difficulty attracting physicians.

7. The increasing number of older Americans will increase demand for surgical and anesthesia services. In addition, people with higher education levels are delaying retirement, so using the traditional retirement age to forecast a physician shortage may not provide accurate predictions.

"In general, forecasting models are only as good as the assumptions upon which they are based," said Mr. Mira. "Think critically and examine the assumptions before jumping to conclusions for yourself and your practice. It's also up to you, the individual practitioner and anesthesia group member, to decide whether the predictions of shortages and increased demand are an opportunity for job security, a cause for concern or some mixture of the two."

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