Report finds state physician shortage could be larger than originally anticipated

Wisconsin Council on Medical Education & Workforce urges more investment in education programs

stethoscope, doctors, healthcare

By 2035, Wisconsin could face a larger-than-anticipated physician shortage that may offset recent efforts to expand medical education and training programs.

A new report released by the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education & Workforce concludes Wisconsin has made some significant progress in boosting the number of doctors entering the state workforce as a significant portion of the population reaches retirement age, but the state could still face a shortage of more than 4,000 doctors by 2035.

A previous report completed by the Wisconsin Hospital Association in 2011 concluded the state would face a physician shortage of roughly 2,100 doctors by 2030 unless around 100 doctors were added to the state workforce each year.

“Changing physician demographics and the increasing complexity of health care delivery and payment is also impacting the clinical output of the average physician,” said WCMEW Executive Director George Quinn. “As a result, Wisconsin will need a somewhat higher number of physicians per patient to account for decreasing trends in the average physician’s clinical contact hours.”

In light of its findings, WCMEW recommended expanding graduate medical education programs, such as residency programs; expanding and improving the state’s medical education and training infrastructure; and increasing emphasis on recruitment and retention.

After the WHA’s report warning of a future physician shortage was released in 2011, the state funded a graduate medical education grant program that has helped create or expand 11 primary care, general surgery and psychiatry programs. The Medical College of Wisconsin opened two new campuses to boost enrollment.

The expansions have the potential to eventually begin adding more than 100 physicians to the state workforce each year.

“While it has been gratifying to see the progress we have made in meeting our future physician workforce needs, more needs to be done,” said Dr. Chuck Shabino, chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Hospital Association and WCMEW Chair.

The Association of American Medical Colleges released a similar report in April warning of a larger-than-anticipated national physician shortage by 2025.

That report anticipated a total physician shortfall of between 61,700 and 94,700 nationwide if demand, largely driven by aging baby boomers and expanded health insurance coverage, continued to outpace the nation’s supply of doctors over the next decade.

In 2015, an earlier version of the AAMC’s report predicted a shortfall of between 46,100 to 90,400.

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Ben Stanley
Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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