Why the projected physician shortage just got worse

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) now projects the United States could face a shortage of up to 121,000 physicians by 2030—raising the possibility of a much worse shortage than AAMC had previously predicted. 

A growing shortage

Last year, AAMC's report estimated that the United States would face a shortage of between 40,800 to 104,900 physicians by 2030. This year, they predict the shortage will actually be between 42,600 to 121,300 physicians.

Specifically, AAMC's report projects that the United States in 2030 will face a shortage of 33,800 to 72,700 physicians in non-primary care specialties, including 20,700 to 30,500 physicians for surgical specialties, as well as a shortage of 14,800 to 49,300 primary care physicians.

AAMC attributed the larger physician shortage projections to population growth and aging. They noted that the United States population is expected to grow by almost 11% by 2030, while the number of Americans over age 65 is projected to grow by 50%. Further, they said many physicians are expected to retire in the coming years, as over 33% of all currently active physicians will reach the age of 65 within the next decade.

Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of AAMC, said that this most recent analysis "reinforces the serious threat posed by a real and significant doctor shortage." He added, "With the additional demand from a population that will not only continue to grow but also age considerably over the next 12 years, we must start training more doctors now to meet the needs of our patients in the future" (Gooch, Becker's Hospital Review, 4/11; Finnegan, FierceHealthcare, 4/12).

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