AAMC Offers Ideas for Dealing with Coming Physician Shortage
December 26, 2016
A recent report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) shows that by 2025, the United States will see estimated shortages of between 14,900 and 35,600 primary care physicians, plus 37,600 and 60,300 non-primary care specialty physicians. All total, the shortage could hit between 61,700 and 94,700 physicians, with elderly patients placed at the highest risk for inadequate or inaccessible care.
"These updated projections confirm that the physician shortage is real, it's significant, and the nation must begin to train more doctors now if patients are going to be able to receive the care they need when they need it in the near future," AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD said in a recent media release.
Of particular concern is the expected drop in the supply of surgical specialists – just as demand for skilled surgeons is growing. Shortages of general and vascular surgeons are highly troubling for older patients who require two to three times the amount of specialty care to treat chronic conditions and age-related illnesses.
Psychiatry is one specialty already under strain. Figures show that in 2014, 45 states had fewer psychiatrists relative to their populations than they had in 2009. Consider that more than 43 million adults in the US report a mental illness and it's clear that the specialty physician shortage may prove critical.
To help alleviate the shortage, the AAMC recommends a multipronged solution that includes:
- Innovations in care delivery
- Improved use of medical technology
- Increased federal support for an additional 3,000 new residency positions over the next five years
- Increased enrollment and larger class sizes at medical schools to ensure an overall rise in the number of skilled new physicians
- Congressional support for new doctor training
- A requirement for all new MDs to complete a residence after graduating from medial school to ensure they’re able to care for patients independently
"We believe this is a measured approach to deal with a problem that has the potential to affect every American," Kirch says. "It strikes a balance between our nation's budget constraints and what medical schools and teaching hospitals believe is our responsibility to meet the needs of patients. Because it can take up to 10 years to train a doctor, our nation needs to act now.”
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