In Search of Solutions: Addressing the Impending Physician Shortage

By Katy Mena-Berkley
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

As a shortage of primary care and specialty physicians looms, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) proposes increased support for medical students.

By the year 2033, the United States could face a significant shortfall of physicians, according to a study released by the AAMC in June. The sixth annual report, entitled The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2018 to 2033, was prepared by the Life Science division of IHS Markit, a global analytics firm.

Examining the Numbers

The report notes that there will be a shortage of 21,400 to 55,200 primary care physicians and a shortage of 33,700 to 86,700 specialty physicians within the next 13 years.

Those shortfalls are driven by mounting demand for medical services from an aging population as well as the retirement of a large swath of active physicians. Specifically, two of five physicians who are currently practicing will be age 65 or older within the next 10 years. And with increasing physician burnout, many of them may elect to hasten retirement rather than delay. Adding to the complexity of the situation are the demands the COVID-19 pandemic presents, which are not factored in to the AAMC report.

To address the issue of the shortage, the AAMC is seeking enhanced support for students in medical school via the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019, as well as the termination of a federal funding freeze for graduate medical education, which has been in effect since 1997.