Aging population in the U.S. could lead to doctor shortage

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The U.S. is set to face a doctor shortage crisis in the future as its population ages and demands overtake supplies.

The current Americans population is aging and this can affect the country’s health care industry in various ways in the years to come. Since Americans are living healthier and longer lives, they will be needing care much later in life.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), there will be a shortage of physicians in the U.S. by 2023. The figure is said to be around 46,900 to 121,900.

In a statement made earlier this year, the AAMC president and CEO said: The nation’s population is growing and aging, and as we continue to address population health goals like reducing obesity and tobacco use, more Americans will live longer lives. These factors and others mean we will need more doctors.”

“Even with new ways of delivering care, America’s doctor shortage continues to remain real and significant,” added Kirch.

In the next decade, one-third of practicing doctors will be older than 65 years old and their retirements can affect the healthcare industry and its supply. If the number of physicians in the country is not adequate, it would mean patients will be subjected to long wait times, leading to limited or delayed medical attention.

“We know older patients use two-to-three times as many medical services as younger patients, and the number of people over age 65 will increase by almost 50%, just in the next 10 to 15 years alone,” said the executive vice president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, Dr. Atul Grover.

Dr. Grover also adds: “We need positions across the board in just about every specialty and location but about half of those physicians needed will be in primary care.”

There are some states and areas where the need and demand for physicians are high. One of these states is Arizona. In this state, all of its counties need primary care physicians. The rural areas in the states are the ones who need the most help as they are only getting under half of the primary care needs.

Out of the 50 states, Arizona is ranked 44th in terms of the total number of active primary caregivers at 77.9 per 100,000. In the country, the ratio is 91.7 per 100,000. The figure is especially worrying because the state of Arizona has the fourth fastest-growing population in the United States.

According to a report by Merritt Hawkins, the country’s leading physician search firm, states like Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming are likely to experience physician shortages as well.

In Arizona, they are figuring out ways to help address the shortage issue. One of these is changing licensing laws.

In April 2019, the governor of Arizona Doug Ducey signed a Universal Licensing Recognition law. This law would make it easier for people with licenses from other states to move to the state of Arizona and acquire accreditation.

This legislation is the first of its kind in the country and it affects various licensed occupations including physicians.

“We think in terms of the doctor shortage, this is one tool in the toolbox. We’ve also had a lot of positive feedback in terms of aspiring nurses and what we’ve been able to do to waive licensing fees for those in poverty or at a certain income level,” said Ducey.

The AMCC acknowledged that the changes in licensing laws may help Arizona. However, there needs to be a multilayered approach that can address the physician gap in the country. The approach includes team-based care and better use of technology.

The association also said that there needs to be an increase in the number of residency programs nationwide. The congressional efforts being made can help address the issue most especially when it comes to increasing Medicare funding for residency training programs.

In Arizona, the state has increased its investment in graduate medical education to help curb the ongoing physician gap.

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