Understanding the Physician Shortage

Understanding the Physician Shortage


There are a lot of people who complain about having to wait too long to see a doctor, and it could get even worse! The United States could see a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030 impacting patient care across the nation, according to new data published today by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). The report, The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2016-2030, updates and aligns with estimates conducted in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and shows a projected shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians by the end of the next decade.


Part of this shortage is driven by the aging baby boomer population. According to data from the US Census Bureau, by 2030, all of the baby boomers will have moved into the ranks of the older population. This means that the number of adults aged 65 and over will go from 13.7% of the population in 2012 to 20.3% in 2030. Seniors today live longer, have more active lifestyles, and require more care. Furthermore, medical advances have increased the number of people able to live with multiple chronic illnesses. More people are needing healthcare than ever before and it’s hard to keep up with.


Below is a breakdown of the Predicted Shortages by Specialty (according to the AAMC)


Primary care– between 8,700 and 43,100 physicians.


Non-primary care specialties (medical specialties, surgical specialties, and other specialties)

expected to experience a shortfall of between 33,500 and 61,800 physicians.


The number of Surgeons in particular is projected to have little growth while they are expected to increase in demand, resulting in a shortage of between 19,800 and 29,000 surgeons.


Other specialties (Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Radiology, Neurology, and Psychiatry, among others) have a projected shortage of between 18,600 and 31,800 physicians.


The AAMC continues to advocate federal support for additional residency positions over the next five years. Overall, the AAMC supports delivery innovations, team-based care, better use of technology, but most importantly, training new doctors.


Solving the shortage requires a multipronged approach including buy-in from policymakers and the community of academic medicine. The AAMC supports bipartisan legislation currently before Congress that would increase federal funding for an additional 3,000 new residency positions each year for the next five years. Also, the AAMC advocates for programs that encourage physicians to work in underserved areas and in specialties most affected by the shortage. These programs include the National Health Service Corps, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and the Title VII and VIII diversity and workforce programs. Other essential programs, like the National Interest Waiver and the Conrad 30 J-1 Visa Waiver, help recruit physicians from abroad to practice in underserved communities in the United States to ease the physician shortage where doctors are needed most. Hopefully, this will help start making a difference in the years ahead.


  • Summer Gilbert | Director of Marketing | Pacific Companies Inc.