The U.S. will need nearly 52,000 more primary care physicians by 2025, mostly due to population growth and an aging population, although expanded health insurance will also play a role, researchers concluded.
Researchers used the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to calculate the use of office-based primary care in 2008 and then applied Census projections and the American Medical Association's Masterfile to calculate the current the number of visits per physician and how that would change through 2025.
Results appeared in the November/December issue of Annals of Family Medicine.
Office visits to primary care physicians could increase from 462 million in 2008 to 565 million in 2025. Population growth of 15.2% could require 33,000 additional physicians, population aging as those 65 years and older will grow by 60% could require 10,000 additional physicians, and insurance expansion in the years 2014 and 2015 could soon require more than 8,000 additional physicians.
The authors wrote, "A rich source of additional primary care physicians exists in the current internal medicine pipeline. The number of internal medicine residents choosing primary care has decreased with most subspecializing. Increasing the number of internal medicine residents pursuing primary care would increase primary care physicians at no additional cost. The [Affordable Care Act] ACA included provisions to increase the attractiveness of primary care. Proposed increases for primary care physician reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, emphasis on patient-centered medical homes, and outlines for a national primary care extension service, if funded and implemented, would help support a satisfied and productive primary care physician workforce."
Recently, another study concluded that medical schools are churning out enough graduate to meet the goal of increasing enrollment 30% by the year 2016. But there aren't enough residency slots for them all, creating bottlenecks, said ACP's executive vice president and CEO, Steven Weinberger, MD, FACP.