A recent report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported a 2% rise in first-year U.S. medical school enrollments in 2008 over 2007. This figure marked the highest in history with more than 18,000 students. While medical school admissions are up, the far reaching physician staffing shortage still remains a concern in the medical community. “This increase in enrollments signifies that the profession of medicine is still a very appealing career option”, said Onyx M.D. CEO and Chairman Robert Moghim, M.D. “Despite significant drops in reimbursement, ever increasing regulatory red tape and greater economic uncertainty, a career in medicine seems to stay strong as a ‘hot’ career opportunity.”
With a rise in overall first-year medical students, are we moving closer to meeting the high demand for U.S. physicians? Not so fast! According to the Council on Physician and Nurse Supply, the U.S. will be short 200,000 physicians by 2020. Sound gloomy? “According to recent data, physician demand seems to be a real crisis,” said Dr. Moghim. “Not only is the overall physician shortage a major problem but certain specialties will be hit harder than others, especially primarily primary care specialists.”
In fact, the AMA announced at its annual meeting that the number of primary care physicians (PCP) could decrease by 35,000 to 40,000 by 2025. Why? It seems that PCP's are becoming increasingly frustrated in many areas of their practice. “Dealing with third party payers, governmental red tape, difficulties in receiving reimbursement and increased time spent with non-clinical paperwork seems to be driving this discontent,” said Monty McKentry, VP of Client Services & Recruitment at Onyx M.D. He adds, “These factors may be the cause of the newly reported data from the Journal of the American Medical Association that only 2% of current medical students intend to go into primary care.”
To exacerbate this issue further, there is a growing concern that one new physician entering the work force may not equal the productivity of one retiring physician. The reason for this concern can be attributed to an overall cultural shift to a more work-life balance, shorter working hours and increased demand for more part-time work. With the anticipated shortage in primary care physicians, demand will increase for short-term coverage or locum tenens. “We anticipate a wide variety of new opportunities as primary care physicians look for other alternatives such as locum tenens” said Robert Moghim, M.D.
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