America's physician shortage could top 139,000 by 2033

The U.S. could face a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033, according to new data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The estimate is higher than AAMC's 2019 report, which projected a shortage of up to 121,900 physicians by 2032.

"This annual analysis continues to show that our country will face a significant shortage of physicians in the coming years," AAMC President and CEO David Skorton, MD, said in a news release. "The gap between the country's increasing healthcare demands and the supply of doctors to adequately respond has become more evident as we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge of having enough doctors to serve our communities will get even worse as the nation's population continues to grow and age."

The Life Science division of IHS Markit, a global information company, conducted the study for AAMC in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. While the analysis excludes specific information or scenarios based on that crisis, it does include supply and demand scenarios and was updated with the latest information on healthcare trends, such as data on physician work hours and retirement trends, the association said.

Five findings from the analysis:

1. The 2020 update shows a potential shortage of 21,400 and 55,200 primary care physicians by 2033.

2. The U.S. faces a potential shortage of 33,700 and 86,700 non-primary care specialty physicians by 2033. This includes 17,100 to 28,700 for surgical specialties.

3. AAMC cites population growth and aging as the primary drivers of the projected physician shortage from 2018 to 2033. The analysis accounted for projections suggesting the U.S. population will grow by 10.4 percent, from about 327 million to 361 million, by 2033, with the population of Americans older than 65 increasing by 45.1 percent.

4. AAMC also accounted for the potential influence of physician retirement in its physician shortage projections. More than two of five currently active physicians will be older than 65 in the next 10 years.

5. Improved access to care would increase the need for physicians. The AAMC estimates suggest the current demand could increase by an additional 74,100 to 145,500 physicians if people living in non-metropolitan areas and the uninsured used care the same way as those with coverage in metropolitan areas.

To access the full analysis, click here


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