A recent op-ed article in The New York Times looked at the issue of whether there will be a physician shortage in the United States.  The article was written by two doctors closely involved with either the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or the White House during their careers.  Read article here.

The factors at play that are believed to possibly lead to a doctor shortage include an aging population, aging physician workforce and increased number of patients with health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act.  Arguments against a physician shortage include technological advances that can pick up disease processes earlier, decreased inpatient hospitalization and increased number of non-physician mid-level providers, pharmacists and psychologists, to name a few.  However, it is believed that scope of practice laws may need to change to allow non-physicians to be involved with primary care issues and medical malpractice laws will need to be reformed.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts that by 2020 there will be a shortage of 90,000 physicians  in the United States and a shortage of 130,000 by 2025.  Read A Word From the President: Facing the Facts About the Physician Shortage.  AAMC Reporter: December 2013.

While medical schools are increasing enrollment (see AAMC study from May 2013), it is believed that the number of residency positions available to graduating medical students are in short supply.  Watch the AAMC video on the topic here.

Will increased coverage lead to increased access to care for the newly insured?  Will aspects of the Affordable Care Act, such as the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), allow for better team coverage in the face of fewer physicians?  What about access to care in rural health areas or poor urban areas?  Should medical school be shortened?  Many questions need to be answered, with some solutions less evident than others.  Read more in the Stanford Journal of Public Health, The Wall Street Journal and The New England Journal of Medicine.


Stuart J. Glassman, MD

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