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Doctor shortage to hit 90,000 by 2025, report says

Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of 12,500 to 31,100 primary care and 28,200 to 63,700 non-primary care physicians.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of 12,500 to 31,100 primary care physicians, and 28,200 to 63,700 non-primary care physicians, most notably among surgical specialists.Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of 12,500 to 31,100 primary care physicians, and 28,200 to 63,700 non-primary care physicians, most notably among surgical specialists.

The United States will be short 46,000 to 90,000 doctors by 2025, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, and little can be done to stem the losses.

The fix is estimated to cost $1 billion, the AAMC's Janis Orlowski said during a news conference Tuesday morning. This is based on the need for 3,000 more doctors in training each year, whose $120,000 to $125,000 yearly program is supported by $85,000 in federal funds, said Orlowski, chief health care officer for the AAMC.

Congress currently has a cap on funding that needs to be lifted, said Orlowski and Darrell Kirch, AAMC president and CEO. The temporary cap was put in place 20 years ago and despite three proposed bills last year, Congress has not acted, Kirch said.

A study released Tuesday by the AAMC estimates a shortage of 12,500 to 31,100 primary care physicians, and 28,200 to 63,700 non-primary care physicians, most notably among surgical specialists.

Although the number of physicians is projected to increase modestly between 2013 and 2025, demand will grow more steeply, according to the AAMC.

“The trends from these data are clear -- the physician shortage will grow over the next 10 years under every likely scenario,” Kirch said in a statement.

“Because training a doctor takes between five and 10 years, we must act now, in 2015, if we are going to avoid serious physician shortages in 2025.”

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AAMC said federal graduate medical education support is needed to train 3,000 more doctors a year than are currently being trained. The industry also will also require innovation in the way care is delivered, greater use of technology, and improved, efficient use of all health professionals on the care team, according to the AAMC.

Total physician demand is projected to grow by up to 17 percent, with population aging and growth accounting for the majority. Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act accounts for about 2 percent of the projected growth in demand.

The study is the first national analysis that takes into account both demographics and new payment and delivery models such as the rapid growth in non-physician clinicians, patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations. It reflects the potential effect of a variety of healthcare policy scenarios.

The report also projects shortages if 5,100 to 12,300 medical specialists; 23,100 to 31,600 surgical specialists; and 2,400 to 20,200 other specialists.

The AAMC also said physician shortage will persist despite efforts to slow it. Those include increased use of advanced practice nurses, greater use of alternate settings such as retail clinics, delayed physician retirement, rapid changes in payment and delivery such as ACOs and bundled payments and other scenarios.

Here are live updates from AAMC's conferece call:

Twitter: @SusanMorseHFN

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