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Physician shortage grows in latest projections


 

“One essential step that we believe Congress must take is to end the freeze that has been in place since 1997 that limits federal support for residency training of new physicians,” Skorton said.

He noted that AAMC supports the bipartisan Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, introduced to Congress in 2019, which calls for an increase in Medicare support for 3000 new residency positions each year over the next 5 years.

However, additional steps are needed, including enabling advanced practice providers to play a greater role in increasing the health care workforce, Dr. Skorton said.

Pointing out some of the effects of physician shortages, Janis M. Orlowski, MD, chief health care officer for the AAMC, noted that high rates of maternal morbidity are partially linked to lack of adequate numbers of physicians in the United States, and a lack of behavioral health specialists has exacerbated effects of the opioid epidemic.

Shortages are already evident in the current pandemic, she added, saying, “Today we see governors calling for retired physicians or physicians from other states to come and help battle the pandemic within their states.”

The report explains that long-term effects on physician numbers from the pandemic likely will include workforce exits because of COVID-19 deaths, early retirements from burnout, or a shift in interest in certain specialties.

Karen Fisher, JD, chief public policy officer for AAMC, said telehealth will also play an important role in bridging gaps in access to care, and its importance has already been seen in this first wave of the pandemic.

She noted that temporary federal waivers have made it easier for those enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to receive telehealth services during the pandemic.

Expanding the access to telehealth permanently will be important in helping to fill gaps, Ms. Fisher said.

Dr. Skorton, Dr. Orlowski, and Ms. Fisher have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article originally appeared on Medscape.com.

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