Shortage ahead: Which doctors will be in highest demand?

Demand for specific specialties will vary by state

The demand for primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists will exceed the number of such physicians available to meet patient needs by 2025, in part because of an aging population and higher insured rates, according to a new Health Affairs study.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the nation's population will increase by 9.5% between 2013 and 2025, while the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 28 million more U.S. residents will have health insurance by 2023.

For the study, researchers used a computer model to examine the future demand for primary care physicians and specialists. They found that the demand for PCPs will increase by 14% by 2025.

However, there will be a larger demand for specialists. The five specialties that will see that largest increases in demand from 2013 to 2025 are:

  • Vascular surgeons, where demand will increase by 31%;
  • Cardiologists, where demand will increase by 20%;
  • Neurological surgeons, where demand will increase by 18%;
  • Radiologists, where demand will increase by 18%;
  • General surgeons, where demand will increase by 18%.

The study also found that the demand will vary by state. For example, demand for cardiologists will rise by 51% in Nevada, but by only 5% in West Virginia.

"What's happening at the state level can be very different than what's happening at the national level," says Timothy Dall, lead author and managing director of research firm IHS. He adds that all the estimates could change along with health care delivery systems and behaviors, which he said are "continually changing" (Seaman, Reuters, 11/4).

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