The U.S. healthcare industry would experience a shortage of doctors by 2030, ranging between 40,800 and 104,900 professionals, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Some hospitals such as the Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Colorado have resorted to locum tenens to address the lack of practitioners. For general surgery and psychiatry, Interim Physicians suggests that locums staffing could also be an alternative solution.
A growing demand for physician care further highlights the need for more doctors, according to AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch. Between 2015 and 2030, the U.S. population would increase by almost 12%. Patients beyond 65 years old would grow by 55%, which presents a bigger problem since this age group requires three times as many healthcare services compared to others.
Specialty care serves as one of the many in-demand services among older patients. Aside from locum tenens, the AAMC suggested an expansion of medical school class sizes and more federal funding for 3,000 new residency positions by 2022 as some other solutions. The establishment of new branches of medical schools has also become a strategy in some states to solve future staffing problems.
In Colorado, a strong demand for anesthesiologists has led the Eastern Colorado Health Care System to increase its offered salary to as much as $400,000 per year. It hopes to lure qualified professionals, amid some doctors choosing to find other jobs, according to the hospital’s spokesperson.
This partly led to a shortage of anesthesiologists at the medical facility, which ultimately forced it to delay between 65 and 90 non-emergency surgeries. For now, the system has depended on locum tenens staff until it finds permanent replacements.
The U.S. healthcare sector should find ways on how to adopt solutions to a potential shortage of doctors. Even if the AAMC report’s projected shortfall does not happen, the need for more patient care will still be necessary.