AAMC study suggests physician-to-PA ratio may fall to 3.5:1 in 2030

March 20, 2017

The U.S. will face a shortage of between 40,800 to nearly 105,000 physicians by 2030, reports the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The organization recently released the results of a new study that found that the numbers of new primary care physicians and other medical specialists are not keeping pace with the demands of a growing patient population, especially the segment that is age 65 and older and getting sicker as they age.

“There is going to be a significant workforce shortage under all of the likely projections,” says Janis M. Orlowski, MD, AAMC chief health care officer, adding that the organization sees the situation worsening as the population ages. The report’s findings are consistent with AAMC estimates from 2015 and 2016.

As in previous reports, AAMC updated scenarios reflecting possibly greater reliance on managed care, retail clinics,  and rapid growth in the number of PAs and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Researchers found that while there is a growing body of literature that indicates that PAs and APRNs can provide high-quality care, can increase physician productivity, and, in some specialties, can perform many of the same functions as physicians, there is little information to indicate the extent to which PAs and APRNs might displace demand for physicians.

Other findings include:

  • The ratio of physicians to PAs and APRNs is projected to fall over time as the PA and and APRN supplies grow at faster rates than physician supply.
  • Projections suggest that the physician to-PA ratio will fall from 7.2:1 in 2015 to 3.5:1 in 2030.
  •  Care in retail clinics will be provided primarily by PAs and NPs.
  • Projections suggest that PA supply will more than double between 2015 and 2030 (121% growth).
  •  Demand for physicians would rise by an additional 15,500 FTEs in the year 2030 if the nation achieved population health goals around weight loss, improved control of clinical measures –blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels — as well as smoking cessation.