The United States could be short nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032, according to a new report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, with rural and underserved areas hit hardest. Primary care will fall short between 21,100 and 55,200 physicians and specialist care will be lacking between 24,800 and 65,800 doctors.
The graying of America is the main driver of the upcoming shortage. Plus, one-third of active doctors will be older than 65 within the next decade.
AAMC said physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses will bridge some of the gap, but warned more research is needed on the services these professionals will provide. The report also suggested that healthcare delivery trends and emphasis on improving population health won’t significantly impact projected shortages.
The findings echo the group's 2018 report on the topic, which predicted a shortage of as much as 121,300 by 2030.
The new report also suggested that healthcare delivery trends, such as better care coordination, reducing unnecessary care, value-based contracting and increasing advanced practice providers, will reduce demand for physicians by only 1% by 2032.
"The nation's population is growing and aging, and as we continue to address population health goals like reducing obesity and tobacco use, more Americans will live longer lives. These factors and others mean we will need more doctors," AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch said in a statement.
AAMC backs legislation in the House of Representatives and the Senate called Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 that would increase Medicare funding for graduate medical education for another 3,000 residency positions annually over five years. Kirch warned that aspiring doctors need seven to 15 years of training, so Congress should begin funding it now.
Doctor shortages won't help another problem — physician burnout. A recent study published in Mayo Clinical Proceedings and conducted jointly with the American Medical Association found that nearly 44% of U.S. physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout. That percentage is lower than in either 2011 or 2014 but still shows a widespread issue. The burnout risk for physicians is higher than workers in other professions.