It isn’t news that recent studies have projected a shortage of primary care providers over the next ten years. The latest report, released March 2015 by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), provides updated projections through 2025.
This study estimates a shortage of:
- 12,500 to 31,100 primary care physicians
- 28,200 to 63,700 non-primary care physicians
This is down a bit from earlier estimates but still significant. As baby boomers age, the need for primary care services is growing.
This compounds the problem of the physician shortage. "The doctor shortage is real—it's significant—and it's particularly serious for the kind of medical care that our aging population is going to need," AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch, M.D., said in a release. "The solution requires a multi-pronged approach.” He added that it would include, "continuing to innovate and be more efficient in the way care is delivered as well as increased federal support for graduate medical education to train at least 3,000 more doctors a year to meet the healthcare needs of our nation's growing and aging population."
Others have suggested that increasing the workforce of mid-level providers to meet the primary care shortage is a valuable alternative to consider as well. Physician Assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) can provide many of the basic primary care services patients need. They can also specialize. The study suggested surgical specialties are the specialty areas most likely to see shortages. NP and PAs who choose to specialize in an area like orthopedic surgery can help alleviate shortages by seeing patients for needed follow up or other non-surgical tasks. As a result, the physician can put his or her resources where they are most needed.
Technology can also play an important role, not by reducing the shortage, but by making providers more efficient and enabling them to see more patients without necessarily working more hours. As shown in this infographic, the right technology used in the right way can reduce administrative tasks for providers so they can focus on patient care.