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    Combating the impending physician shortage

    The U.S. population is aging dramatically, and with age comes the propensity to develop diseases. Due to the Affordable Care Act, nearly 32 million additional people have health coverage for the first time ever. This combination alone is putting tremendous pressure on the supply-and-demand of healthcare in the U.S.

    A recent report released by the Association of American Medical Colleges forecasted that the U.S., will face a physician shortage of somewhere between 61,700 and 94,700 doctors over the next decade.

     

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    Janis Orlowski, MD, AAMC’s chief healthcare officer, characterizes the problem as “critical” and notes the first step to fixing the problem was recognizing there was a shortage in the first place.

    “We know it can take 8 to 10 years to train new physicians, so if we don’t start addressing the issue now, it will be too late,” she says. “We have asked medical schools to increase their class size, and if you compare 2001 to now, there’s been an increase in medical students of 26% and that has been done by increasing the number of medical schools in the U.S., as well as the number of medical schools increasing their class size.”

    For further efforts to alleviate the shortage, the AAMC has instituted a multi-pronged approach that includes urging Congress to increase federal support to add at least 3,000 new residency positions annually during the next five years; improving technology use; and seeking innovations in care delivery.

    “There has been a federal cap on residency programs frozen for more than 20 years, and that needs to be lifted and there needs to be more federal support for the training of physicians,” Orlowski says.

    Next: A tech solution

    Keith Loria
    Keith Loria is a contributing writer to Medical Economics.

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