Perspective from Robert Centor, MD, MACP
March 24, 2015
4 min read

Substantial physician shortage expected over next decade

Perspective from Robert Centor, MD, MACP
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A national shortage of between 46,000 and 90,000 physicians is projected by 2025, affecting primary care, surgical care and other medical specialties, according to a report released by the Association of American Medical Colleges. 

“The doctor shortage is real — it’s significant — and it’s particularly serious for the kind of medical care that our aging population is going to need,” Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC president and CEO, said in a press release.

Darrell G. Kirch

In collaboration with IHS — a publicly traded company that provides comprehensive economic modeling and forecasting services — the AAMC published a report on the projected future supply and demand of physicians in the United States. The report pinpoints key trends that are likely to affect heath care services and physician demands, such as retirement, mortality patterns, specialty mix and demographics of new physicians, current numbers and work patterns in patient care hours. Individual specialties were categorized as primary care, medical specialties, surgical specialties and “other” specialties.

Physician demand has a projected growth of between 11% and 17%, while physician supply is projected at 9% growth. These trends will lead to a shortage of 46,100 to 90,400 physicians by 2025. Specifically, shortages are projected to be between 12,500 and 31,100 for PCPs and between 28,200 and 63,700 for nonprimary care physicians. These shortfalls are expected despite anticipated increases in advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and physician assistants (PAs). The projected physician shortage could be in the lower range and hinge on the growth supply of APRNs and PAs.

Researchers said the Affordable Care Act, which expanded coverage to nearly 26 million previous uninsured people, is likely to be the cause of a projected 2% increase in physician demand. This projects a demand increase of 3.2% in surgical specialties, 2% in primary care, 1.7% in medical specialties and 1.5% in all “other” specialties.

“The trends from these data are clear — the physician shortage will grow over the next 10 years under every likely scenario,” Kirch said in the release. “Because training a doctor takes between 5 and 10 years, we must act now, in 2015, if we are going to avoid serious physician shortages in 2025.

“The solution requires a multipronged approach: Continuing to innovate and be more efficient in the way care is delivered, as well as increased federal support for graduate medical education to train at least 3,000 more doctors a year to meet the heath care needs of our nation’s growing and aging population.” – by Casey Hower


IHS/Association of American Medical Colleges. The complexities of physician supply and demand report: Projections from 2013 to 2015. 2015; Available at:

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.