5 notes on the 'urgent crisis' of the physician shortage

In October, American Medical Association president Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, referred to the physician shortage as an "urgent crisis," leading to strain on physicians, administrative burdens and growing consolidation across the healthcare field.

Here are five notes on the factors fueling this crisis from Dr. Ehrenfeld's Oct. 25 speech to the National Press Club:

  1. More than 83 million people across the country are estimated to currently live in areas without proper access to a primary care physician.
  2. One in 5 physicians surveyed by the AMA during the pandemic said they planned to leave medicine within the next two years, with another 1 in 3 physicians saying they planned to cut back on their hours.
  3. The physician population is continuing to grow older, with almost half of all practicing physicians in the country above the age of 55. 
  4. Young physicians are often forced to bypass primary care and other specialties in the areas that need physicians the most due to crippling debt from medical school, with the average young physician leaving medical school with over $250,000 in debt.
  5. The payment rate to physicians treating Medicare patients has dropped 26% since 2001 when adjusted for inflation.

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