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The medical community is debating whether the nation will have enough physicians in coming decades to serve the health care needs of U.S. residents. The Association of American Medical Colleges forecasts a deficit of up to 90,400 doctors — particularly specialists — by 2025, citing mainly a growing and aging population. But other professionals say such projections are exaggerated. Ending unnecessary medical procedures and making greater use of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacy-based clinics and technology that allows patients to communicate remotely with medical personnel could reduce the demand for doctors, they argue. Despite the debate, government officials and private organizations are working to increase the supply of physicians, especially in rural and low-income urban areas, where shortages exist. Efforts include expanding medical school slots and postgraduate residency programs, placing schools and residencies in localities that lack doctors, recruiting students from those areas and supporting them throughout their medical education.
Pending legislation would increase Medicare-funded residencies by 3,000 annually from 2017 to 2021.
Medical schools are recruiting more minorities who might be willing to practice in underserved areas.
Joining a group practice makes a doctor more efficient, say health care financial-management experts.
|1920s–1932||Scientific advances increase demand for providers and hike costs.|
|1939–1955||Changes in health care delivery and payment are initiated during World War II era.|
|1965-Present||Federal government boosts health insurance rolls. New technology and new types of medical workers are introduced to reduce physicians' workload.|