A shortage of physicians is likely to cause longer waits for healthcare in the future, especially in rural areas.

The Association of American Medical Colleges says even with a recommended increase in medical school enrollment, physicians will not be able to keep pace with an increasing population of aging patients. Workforce studies director Ed Salsberg says the AAMC is recommending a multi-faceted approach. Among that, he says doctors need to be able to spend more time with patients and less on paperwork. But he says the root of the matter is supply and demand. People are living longer as fewer students enter the medical industry.

One reason the ever-increasing shortage of physicians might hurt rural areas is the bent toward specialized medicine, and specialized physicians tend to gravitate to larger cities. Another is that as patients age, so do physicians, resulting in shorter work weeks. He also says more women are entering the medical field, many of them also having family responsibilities, again resulting in working fewer hours.

He’s speaking to a panel of healthcare professionals from throughout the U.S. today at the University of Missouri.

The AAMC predicts a national shortage of 124 thousand physicians by 2025, even with a 30 percent recommended increase in medical school enrollment.

For patients in rural areas especially, timely access to care could continue to be a problem for years to come.
 
To view some of Salsberg’s studies, visit:

http://www.aamc.org/workforce/annualmeeting08/salsberg2008l.pdf
http://www.aamc.org/workforce/workforceposition.pdf
http://www.aamc.org/workforce/

Jessica Machetta reports [Download / listen Mp3]