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September 2, 2022

What to Know About the Looming Doctor Shortage

According to a study conducted in 2020, the United States could face a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033. This could lead to suboptimal healthcare and outcomes for many patients. The study noted that the shortage of physicians could affect a wide variety of fields, including primary care and several specialty care areas. Clearly, the country is potentially entering a public-health crisis due to the lack of qualified and experienced physicians.

The shortage of physicians in certain medical specialties, such as critical care medicine, is expected to worsen as the country’s aging population continues to require more complex care. Many experts have noted that if the country’s healthcare system is not able to address the shortage of doctors, individuals will experience delays in their access to needed care. This issue could especially affect the quality of life for low-income and marginalized individuals. In addition, the shortage of physicians could lead to further strain on already overburdened emergency departments.

The lack of a sufficient number of primary care physicians can lead to patients going to the emergency room due to their lack of confidence in their ability to get timely treatment. This is especially true in rural areas where many people don’t see a doctor until their problems become relatively advanced.

What Is the Reason for the Doctor Shortage?

The various factors that affect the availability of medical doctors are complex and interrelated. Besides the time and cost of training, other factors such as the availability of medical equipment are also taken into account. The increasing demand for doctors and the lack of supply are some of the factors that have contributed to the shortage of physicians in the US. A major reason why the country’s medical schools are not able to meet the demand for doctors is due to the time and cost involved in training new physicians.

In 2020, a relief bill was passed that included an increase in funding for the recruitment and training of doctors. However, the changing demographic is also compounding the situation. By 2035, there will be more people over 65 years of age than those under 17 years old. This demographic imbalance creates a higher demand for physicians at a time when the looming doctor shortage is at a critical point, especially as more physicians are reaching retirement age.

Due to the many factors affecting the availability of doctors, the federal government will need to provide additional resources to address the issue. This is because the country’s population growth has resulted in a heightened demand for doctors. Telemedicine can help ease limited physician availability by providing access to care for those who are not able to meet their physicians in person but only provides a partial solution.

The physician shortage is a complex and multi-tiered issue with no singular or simple solutions readily available. Expanding medical school capacity, decreasing training length time, promoting non-physician extenders, incorporating physicians from other countries, bringing in a more diverse and disadvantaged provider group, enhancing pay, reducing the debt burden, and so forth are possible approaches but require rigorous thought and planning prior to implementation.

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