The possibility of a physician shortage in the near future could make it harder to deploy population health strategies, according to a report released in February 2017 by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
The report looks at several population health strategies, including those that aim at reducing morbid obesity, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, increasing blood glucose management, and smoking cessation.
The increased need for high-quality, low-cost healthcare for chronic care management initiatives (such as those mentioned above) is tied to workforce projections and the possibility that there won’t be enough physicians to lead care teams, the report says.
“We have goals to make populations healthier. If more people are living into their 90s or 100s, it won’t decrease the need for doctors,” says Janis Orlowski, MD, MACP, chief healthcare office for AAMC. “My experience tells me that our goals to decrease obesity and high blood pressure will make significant impacts on healthcare. But people will still need a doctor.”
Scope of the problem
By 2025, the United States could be facing a shortage ranging from 34,600 to 88,000 physicians in total. Physician shortages in specialty, nonprimary care areas such as surgical, psychiatry, and pathology could be between 33,500 and 61,800 by 2030, according to study. The projected shortages in the primary care field range from 7,300 to 43,100 by 2030. The study’s authors say that wide range is due to the possibility of rapid growth in nurse practitioner and physician assistants (PAs) joining the field.
”The ratio of physicians to advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) and PAs is projected to fall over time as the APRN and PA supplies grow at faster rates than physician supply,” the study’s authors say. The projections suggest that the physician to-PA ratio will fall from 7.2:1 in 2015 to 3.5:1 in 2030. The physician-to-APRN ratio will fall from 3.6:1 in 2015 to 1.9:1 in 2030. “It is unclear whether these decreasing ratios are sustainable as an increased number of APRNs and PAs continue to enter the market or to what extent these shifts will affect the demand for physicians.”