What the physician workforce will look like in 5 years

Four physicians connected with Becker's to discuss what the physician workforce will look like in five years. 

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

Cary Passik, MD. Cardiac Surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital (Suffern, N.Y.): It has been said that "forecasts are difficult to make, particularly those that pertain to the future." That being said, I think in five years, we will see significantly accelerated retirement of older physicians, who are frankly at the end of their ropes with some of the changes in medicine, including difficult-to-navigate electronic medical records. The loss of their collective knowledge and experience will be considerable. There will be more and more utilization of nurse practitioners and PAs, and perhaps artificial intelligence kiosks, to serve as primary care physicians. Subspecialists and procedure-based physicians will not be replaced by artificial intelligence just yet.

Darley Solomon, MD. General Surgeon at the Doctor's Hospital (Cayman Islands): Anticipate that the shortage of caregivers will get worse in the short term. There will be a contraction of general practitioners and family physicians, who will have their roles filled by advanced practice registered nurses. This will contribute to downward pressure on physician income and impact the choice of specialization. I suspect individuals interested in being healthcare providers will reconsider doing those additional years of training to get a medical degree when they can complete APRN training in a fraction of the time and have the potential to make comparable income. Additionally, the utilization of artificial intelligence will play an ever-increasing role in the triaging and initial evaluation of patients.   

Leonid Pravoverov, MD. Nephrology Specialist at Oakland (Calif.) Medical Center: Lesser role of physician as a "captain of the ship," and more advanced practitioners — nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses, pharmacists and social workers diluting the role of the physician and traditional physician-patient relations.

Vlad Frenk, MD. Anesthesiologist at Integrated Anesthesia Associates (Shelton, Conn.): Mostly employed with fixed, predictable hours and set salaries. The employers of the future are going to be hospitals/healthcare systems and insurance companies via direct (e.g., Aetna Health) or indirect (e.g., Optum) models.

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