The United States continues to face a projected physician shortage during the next decade, according to new data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The latest projections align with previous estimates, showing a projected shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 doctors by 2030.
This year’s report extended the date of the projections by five years, from 2025 to 2030, to account for the time needed to train a physician who would start medical school in 2017.
The report aggregates the shortages in four broad categories: primary care, medical specialties, surgical specialties, and other specialties. By 2030, the study estimates a shortfall of between 7,300 and 43,100 primary care physicians. Nonprimary care specialties are expected to experience a shortfall of between 33,500 and 61,800 physicians.
These findings are largely consistent with 2015 and 2016 reports from the AAMC. In particular, the supply of surgical specialists is expected to remain level while demand increases. The study also finds that the numbers of new primary care physicians and other medical specialists are not keeping pace with the health care demands of a growing and aging population.
“By 2030, the population of Americans aged 65 and older will grow by 55%, which makes the projected shortage especially troubling,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD. “As patients get older, they need two to three times as many services, mostly in specialty care, which is where the shortages are particularly severe.”
Expanding on last year’s findings, the new report also includes an analysis of the needs and health care utilization of underserved populations. These data show that if the barriers to utilization were removed for these patients, and if all Americans accessed health care at the same levels as insured, non-Hispanic white populations, the United States would have needed up to 96,800 doctors in 2015. Nearly three-quarters of those physicians would be needed in metropolitan areas. This figure is in addition to the projected workforce shortage based on current practice patterns.
To help alleviate the physician shortage, the AAMC supports expanding the size of classes in medical school; finding innovations in care delivery and team-based care; making better use of health care technology; and increasing federal support for an additional 3,000 new residency positions per year during the next five years.
“We urge Congress to approve a modest increase in federal support for new doctors,” Kirch said. “Expanded federal support, along with all medical schools and teaching hospitals working to enhance education and improve care delivery, would be a measured approach to solving what could be a dangerous health care crisis.”