AAMC Predicts Significant Physician Shortage by 2036

March 29, 2024
A new study by the AAMC, warns of a potential physician shortfall of 86,000 MDs

A new report published on March 21 by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) concludes that the U.S. is expected to face a physician shortage of between 13,500 and 86,000 by 2036. According to the study, The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2021 to 2036, many physicians will reach retirement age within the next decade.

The analysis incorporates the latest trends in healthcare delivery and the healthcare workforce. However, the shortage projected in the new report is less than the findings from the last report released in 2021. Key findings read that the number difference is attributed to a new set of scenarios based on hypothetical growth in medical residency positions. The new scenarios consider investment increases in graduate medical education (GME) by states, teaching health systems, Congress, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

“Without funding beyond current levels, the graduate medical education growth trajectories hypothesized in this year’s report will not materialize,” AAMC’s president David J. Skorton, M.D., said in a statement.

The continued need for more physicians is related to population growth and aging. Specifically, the report predicts an increasing need for specialists. The AAMC found that if underserved communities could obtain the same level of access to healthcare as other populations, the nation would have needed about 202,800 physicians as of 2021.

The pandemic increased awareness of disparities in health and access to healthcare services and the physical and mental toll this took on healthcare workers. Growing concerns led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release guidelines to address burnout in the healthcare workforce.

A Blue Ridge Academic Health Group report stated that “there simply are not enough healthcare professionals to keep the nation’s healthcare system operating.” Read more about the report's key findings here.  

In a statement, Skorton further cautioned, “We are looking at substantial shortages of doctors that will not meet our future health care demands. Further, if we succeed in improving access to care for our growing and aging population, which we very much hope to do, then the workforce shortages will be even larger than projected in this report.”

Per the press release, the AAMC report “confirms that lifting the federal statutory cap on Medicare support for GME will help alleviate but not eliminate the current and projected doctor shortage.”

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