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IPFS News Link • Healthcare

What's Behind America's Doctor Crisis?

•, by Autumn Spredemann

Many specializations are increasingly affected by this trend, but primary care and emergency medicine are among the hardest hit.

The average wait time to see a doctor has increased since 2017 and continued to rise after the demand spike brought on by COVID-19. A survey conducted by AMN Healthcare in 2022 of 15 large metro markets revealed the average time to see a physician was 26 days—an 8 percent increase from 2017 and a 24 percent spike since 2004.

Staff constraints are also felt in hospital emergency departments. Nearly 140 million Americans visited a hospital emergency department in 2021, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, about 13 percent resulted in hospital admission; while thousands waited hours to see a health care provider.

Consequently, many patients leave before being seen by a doctor.

One study analyzed more than 1,000 hospitals between 2017 and the end of 2021 and found those with the worst performance had 4.4 percent of emergency room patients leave before a medical evaluation was conducted. At the end of 2021, that number had risen to upwards of 10 percent.

Compounding the issue is that nearly half of the doctor population will reach retirement age within the next 10 years and career burnout is hitting the rest harder than ever, according to data from Association of American Medical Colleges.

Almost 50 percent of doctors report that they feel burned out, according to a 2024 Medscape report.

These are key factors driving America's growing scarcity of doctors. Physician Thrive's 2023 study noted that the United States may have a shortage of 124,000 doctors by 2034. Within that shortfall, up to 48,000 will likely be lost from primary care, while the industry is projected to lose another 58,000 specialists, surgeons, and nurse practitioners.