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Posted on
May 31, 2023

Physician Shortage and the Effects on Patient Care

Quality patient care is the number one priority for any healthcare system, but sometimes staffing shortages make providing that care difficult. Physician shortages can have far-reaching and often devastating effects, so it's important to understand why this happens and what can be done to help.

Recent Physician Shortage Statistics & What to Know

The impending physician shortage, also known as medicine's great resignation, is a growing problem in the United States. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), there will be a shortage of up to 121,300 physicians by 2032. This number includes both primary care and specialty physicians. The AAMC also estimates that the demand for physicians will continue to grow faster than the supply, leading to an even larger gap between what is needed and what is available. In addition, recent studies have shown that this shortage particularly affects rural areas. In fact, nearly one-third of all counties in the U.S. have fewer than one primary care physician per 3,500 people. This has led to increased appointment wait times and reduced access to quality healthcare for those living in underserved areas.

Causes of Physician Shortage

There are several factors contributing to the physician shortage. One of the main causes is an aging population. As more people reach retirement age, they require more medical care from doctors who may not be able to keep up with the demand. Additionally, as baby boomers retire from jobs as doctors and nurses, there are fewer replacements entering these roles due to low wages and high student debt levels among medical students. Furthermore, young doctors lack incentives to practice in rural areas, where they often make significantly less money than they would in urban settings. Because of this, many rural communities have limited access to healthcare services and qualified providers.

How the Physician Shortage Is Affecting Healthcare

The physician shortage affects healthcare in many ways, for both patients and providers. As hospitals struggle with staffing shortages, they also struggle to provide quality care at affordable rates. In addition, if patients cannot find doctors nearby, they may have no choice but to seek emergency room care, which is more expensive and may take longer. Even in non-emergency room settings, physician shortages still cause longer wait times, which is frustrating for both patients and providers.

How the Physician Shortage Is Affecting Patient Care

The physician shortage also affects patient care, since there are fewer qualified providers available. This means that each individual doctor must take on more responsibility when it comes to providing necessary services - leading to fatigue or burnout. Furthermore, if certain specialists are unavailable, then it could mean longer wait times before receiving specialized treatments. When you combine these factors together, the overall quality of care suffers.

Physician Shortage Solutions

Fortunately, there are solutions being developed to address this issue head-on so everyone has access to quality healthcare, regardless of location.

Telemedicine - One potential solution involves expanding telemedicine services to allow remote consultations with doctors located anywhere in the world. This increases patient care access and means someone living in a small town won't need to travel hundreds of miles to get specialty care.

Higher Salaries - Additionally, increasing salaries can offer better incentives for young professionals to choose a career in medicine, especially those looking to work in rural areas where pay might be lower compared to urban centers.

Foreign-Educated Physicians - Encouraging nurses from other countries to live and work in the United States is a great way to improve the current practicing physician numbers.

Locum Tenens Physicians - Another great way to reduce staffing shortages is to utilize locum tenens physicians. Doctors and advanced practice providers who are locum tenens can choose their own schedules, travel, and earn higher wages. It also means hospitals with critical positions left unfilled can bring in physicians from around the country to alleviate their physician shortage.

Reducing Debt - Finally, reducing the student loan debt burden for graduates entering the field could help attract talent to much-needed positions. This would help ensure the next generation gets a chance to pursue dreams of becoming successful doctors without worrying about crippling financial repercussions in the long term.

How Caliber Can Help

At Caliber, we understand the importance of addressing physician shortages head-on, so everyone has access to quality healthcare regardless of where they live. Our team specializes in helping international physicians transition into the U.S. healthcare workforce quickly and efficiently, so they can fill gaps in care and make an impact. We equip physicians for success with comprehensive healthcare services, including licensing assistance, credentialing support, visa processing, and job placements. Reach out today to learn more about how Caliber is helping combat the physician shortage.


What is the impact of the physician shortage?

The effects of this doctor shortage on healthcare can be far-reaching and costly for both patients and providers. For instance, hospitals may face staffing shortages which can lead to difficulty in providing quality care at affordable rates. Furthermore, if patients cannot find a doctor near them, they may have no choice but seek out emergency room treatment that is more expensive and takes longer.

What are the effects of not having enough primary care physicians?

The physician shortage affects patient care since fewer qualified providers are available. This means that each individual doctor must take on more responsibility when it comes to providing necessary services - leading to fatigue or burnout. Furthermore, if certain specialists are unavailable, then it could mean longer wait times before getting treatment.

Why is physician well-being important?

Physicians deserve to have a work-life balance to avoid stress and burnout. Without proper well-being, physicians may struggle to provide quality care which impacts their personal lives, patients, and the healthcare system.

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