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If you’re trying to see a doctor in the coming years, you might have to wait a bit. Serious physician shortages are looming thanks to high demand for these services, burnout, and other factors contributing to a serious shortage of MDs. What does this mean for healthcare facilities and their patients? Is locum tenens the answer?

What to Know About the Physician Shortage

Facts About the Physician Shortage

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) says we will see a shortage in the U.S. of between 37,800 and 124,000 doctors by 2034. These shortages will hit both primary and specialty care providers. The organizations suggest the shortage range by specialty area will include:

  • 17,000 to 48,000 primary care physicians (family medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics)
  • 15,800 and 30,200 surgical specialists (general surgeons, ob/gyn, orthopedics)
  • 3,800 to 13,400 medical specialists (cardiologists, infectious disease, pulmonologists)
  • 10,300 to 35,6000 other areas (addiction medicine, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, neurology)

How did we get to this state and what can we do about this serious problem?

What’s Causing the Doctor Shortage?

The main causes of this labor shortage, according to the AAMC, are complex and multifaceted:

  • Population growth and aging. They say the U.S. population will grow by 10.6% through 2034. The increase is higher for those aged 65 and over, at 42.4%. An older population relies more heavily on our medical system of care.
  • The pandemic not only increased our caseloads, it contributed to physician burnout. Not only is a large portion of doctors nearing retirement age, but many also chose to leave early due to the high pressure they experienced during COVID. According to the AAMC, more than two of every five doctors in this country will be 65 or older during the next decade.

The AAMC says, “If marginalized minority populations, people living in rural communities, and people without health insurance had the same healthcare use patterns as populations with fewer barriers to access, up to an additional 180,400 physicians would be needed now.”

How Can Locum Tenens Help?

Locum tenens doctors are the traveling clinicians of the healthcare world. Simply put, a locum tenens provider is a contracted worker who travels to a facility from their home base to provide care to patients. The idea launched in the 1970s and has grown so that now nearly every hospital in the U.S. has locums in its hallways. A recent study showed 85% of healthcare organizations have leveraged these contract arrangements. Roughly 52,000 doctors worked as locum tenens in 2019.

Why do healthcare facilities turn to locum tenens doctors?

  • Staff up when patient caseloads are high.
  • Cover for vacations with their existing staff.
  • Provide additional on-call support.
  • To provide specialty care when organizations can’t find a specialist.
  • To shore up in the face of staffing shortages.

Locum tenens doctors may help with the growing shortages of clinical providers we will soon experience. Fierce Healthcare describes why doctors are increasingly considering locum tenens work as a smart career move, suggesting, “Locum tenens is an increasingly popular practice style among physicians because it allows them to focus on what they like to do best, which is treat patients while minimizing the administrative duties they like least.”

Would The Mounting Physician Shortage Affect Your Company?

FoxHire is an employer of record (EOR) that can provide locum tenens for your facilities as well as manage contracts administration for these positions. Find out how we can help your business by clicking here to see what we can do for you.

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