BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Doctor shortage in the United States



As the overall population ages and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) continues to expand health insurance coverage, policy makers must focus on the growing shortage of primary care workforce especially doctors. The shortage of doctors in the United States is a major concern facing and affecting hospitals, and patients in particular. This shortage subjects Doctors to a draining work environment and hectic lifestyle leading to constant burnout and an increased turnover rate which hospitals cannot afford. Consequently, it is essential to improve the quality of the work environment as well as reduce the workload of these doctors in order to retain them, sustain the quality of care received by patients as well as improve patient access to healthcare.

In recent years, physician shortage in the US has overwhelmed the healthcare industry and is expected to continue growing exponentially. Some reasons for this shortage include, but is not limited to population growth, increase in the number of aging Americans, and retirement of practicing doctors. A 2017 study by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) showed that the US could face an impending crisis of physician shortage to a maximum of 104,900 physicians by 2030. A crisis of physician shortage will be detrimental to patients and doctors; patients will experience longer wait times, barriers in accessing healthcare, dissatisfaction, distrust in the health system, and difficulties in getting beds or being admitted for extended hospital stays. Doctors on the other hand will be unable to treat patients efficiently due to fatigue from extended work hours and patient influx. More so, the shortage of physicians does not only affect hospital patients but also people who visit their primary care physicians and family doctors. Ultimately, the shortage of doctors will erode and negatively impact the overall quality of healthcare across the US if not averted.

In general, recent years have recorded significant decrease in patient care access due to a number of factors; however, some people propose that this decrease may not be as a result of physician shortage. A 2014 study by the Institute of Medicine claimed there was no statistical shortage of physicians or doctors in the US. As a consequence, there is need for further research to ascertain if there is indeed shortage, to what degree it exists and the possible impacts it could have on hospitals, doctors and patients.


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