The Physician Workforce Shortage and What It Means for Team-Based Care

March 2015, Vol 3, No 3 - Letter from the Editor
Frederique H. Evans, MBS

More questions are being raised in light of the recent physician workforce shortage projections released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) earlier this month, including how it will impact patient care, and community pharmacies and clinics.

“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, President and CEO of AAMC, said in an announcement released by the association.

The report, which was published earlier in March, includes information on the current and projected future supply of physicians, as well as the current and projected future demand for physicians, and the current and projected future adequacy of physician supply. A microsimulation was used to project the supply of, and demand for, healthcare services and physicians. The supply model also simulated the likely career decisions of physicians, including current numbers, specialty mix and demographics of new entrants to the physician workforce, retirement and mortality patterns, and patterns of patient care hours worked.

The report lists key trends likely to affect the supply and demand for healthcare services and physicians for the next decade. Overall, the demand for physicians was found to grow faster than supply, with a projected shortfall of between 46,100 and 90,400 physicians by 2025. Shortfalls in primary care are projected to range between 12,500 and 31,100 physicians by 2025, with demand for non–primary care physicians exceeding supply by 28,200 to 63,700 physicians. In addition, the report indicates that expanded medical coverage from the Affordable Care Act—when it is fully implemented—will likely increase demand by approximately 16,000 to 17,000 physicians (2.0%) over the increased demand resulting from changing demographics. The lower ranges of the projected shortfalls reflect the rapid growth in supply of advanced practice clinicians, and the increased role of these clinicians in patient care delivery. However, even in these scenarios, physician shortages are projected to persist, the authors of the report emphasized. Finally, because of new data and the dynamic nature of projected assumptions, the projected shortfalls of physicians in 2025 are smaller than shortfalls previously projected.

In this issue of Inside Patient Care: Pharmacy & Clinics, we had the opportunity to speak with Janis Orlowski, MD, MACP, Chief Health Care Officer of AAMC, and discuss the physician workforce shortage report in more detail, including the implication of the data as it relates to community pharmacists and clinicians, as well as other questions the report raises (see “Questions Answered with Janis Orlowski, MD, MACP”). “Between now and 2025 there is a continued demand for the physician workforce, but not as much as in other scenarios because the pharmacy and retail clinics tend not to be staffed by physicians,” she explained. “There is a preponderance of other health professionals in addition to physicians contributing to the demand for medical care.”

Take some time to read through this issue and think about the impact of the physician shortage on your patients and business. Healthcare is transforming. Look to Inside Patient Care: Pharmacy & Clinics to provide practical information on how to provide optimal access to quality care, implement best practices, navigate the healthcare system, and achieve professional success.


  1. IHS Inc; for Association of American Medical Colleges. The complexities of physician supply and demand: projections from 2013 to 2015. load/426242/data/ihsreportdownload.pdf. Published March 2015. Accessed April 7, 2015.
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