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Dec 28

America’s Physician Shortage: How Do We Overcome It?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the doctor shortage in America. It’s certainly being felt by both patient and physicians alike, and unfortunately it only has the potential to get worse in the coming years. Just how bad is it, though, and what can be done to offset this challenge? Read on to find out.

How bad is America’s physician shortage?

As of 2021, the physician shortage in the United States was around 46,000 providers. According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges that was published in 2020, that number could reach between 54,100 and 139,000 by 2033.

While these shortages are expected to span across primary and specialty care, geography will play a role in where shortages are the worst with rural and low-income areas feeling the greatest impact. More specifically, the South will bear the largest shortage at 31,400, with the Midwest also falling 12,900 physicians short of need. The West, however, has roughly equal supply and demand for physicians, and the Northeast has a surplus of roughly 23,900 doctors.

What can be done to overcome this doctor shortage?

Just as America’s physician shortage can’t be attributed to any one cause, there is no single solution that will overcome this challenge. There are a number of steps that can be taken, though, on both a large and small scale to ease the burden of having too few providers.

  1. Leverage technology. Streamlined technology is integral in allowing doctors to work more efficiently and be able to see more patients without experiencing burnout. . Automate tasks whenever possible in an effort to alleviate physician workload. And harness the power of a robust telehealth solution, ideally one featuring telediagnostic capabilities, to efficiently extend your providers’ care reach.
  2. Recruit more non-physician providers and expand their scope of practice. Make sure that you have highly qualified Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners on staff and allow them to work to the greatest extent of their licenses in order to alleviate the workload your physicians carry. This will allow your patients to continue to have access to high quality care without the entirety of that burden falling on the backs of your physicians.
  3. Adjust physician reimbursement policies to attract providers to areas that are more affected by the shortage. While this is a larger change that will require government action, it’s still an important piece of the puzzle. The physician shortage is worst in rural and low-income areas, and these areas also have little to attract young doctors. A more attractive reimbursement policy in exchange for serving in an area like this could help to even out the concentration of physicians.
  4. Increase funding from CMS to allow for more residencies each year. This is another policy-level change that will likely require time, but is necessary to make a real change. Right now there aren’t enough new physicians entering residency each year to offset the need from an increase in population and the number of doctors retiring. This puts us at a constant deficit. With an increase in the number of residencies each year, we could actually start to meet the need for providers and reduce the shortage where it begins.

America’s physician shortage is a major pain point in the healthcare industry today. Patients are struggling to obtain timely, quality care and providers are experiencing burnout from trying to keep up with the demand. Yet there are ways, both on a local and national level, that we can begin to overcome this shortage and ensure that everyone has access to the care they need. For those local-level tasks, Henry Schein MicroMD is dedicated to providing streamlined, efficient technology that helps providers to extend their care reach without overextending themselves, such as our simple, customizable, and connected EHR and telediagnostic mobile units from Medpod.

To learn more or get started, visit or call 1-800-624-8832.

About the author,
Crystal Stanton

Crystal is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Henry Schein MicroMD. Content creation, social media management, and SEO optimization are just a few of her areas of concentration as she seeks to educate clients and prospects alike about the simple, customizable, and connected solutions we offer at MicroMD.

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