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A 2018 report conducted for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) by IHS Inc paints a grim picture for the increasing healthcare demands of a growing & aging population with a physician supply that is struggling to keep up. The predicted physician shortage ranges from 42,600 – 121,000 physicians by the year 2030 poses a huge threat to accessible healthcare. Millions of patients may soon find booking appointments and sitting in waiting rooms unbearable, or worse – impossible. Luckily there is hope, but it may be a team effort from local and central initiatives with engagement of both individuals and leadership. Let’s explain:

A recently published report on the profession of osteopathic medicine shows a steady increase in osteopathic physicians, and students rolling up their sleeves to fulfill needed positions in the medical field. Over the last three decades, the number of doctors of osteopathic medicine in the U.S. has tripled, rising from 30,990 to 114,425. In 2018 alone in the U.S. 6,504 doctors of osteopathic medicine graduated, and 31,000 students are currently enrolled in a college of osteopathic medicine. Of those graduating and currently practicing, 65% of DOs are age 45 and younger, meaning they will be serving their patients for multiple generations. In the spirit of National Osteopathic Medicine Week, how can physicians, clinicians and patients contribute to support the rise in doctors of osteopathic medicine?

Two solutions can significantly help avert the physician supply & demand gap, and it’s a one-two punch from both MDs and DOs:

Join MDs, DOs, clinicians and patients in the fight to expand graduate medical education (GME) federal funding to launches more residents and fellows into supervised, hands-on training that must be completed to be licensed and board certified, and get more trained physicians out the door and closer to patients.

Join the cause through these campaigns:

  •  “The Doctor Shortage” by the AAMC – Sign the petition to urge Congress to expand funding for residency training.
  • Save GME” by the AMA – Both MDs and patients can sign this petition to the US Senate and Congress to stop possible Graduate Medical Education (GME) cuts in Medicare financing that could limit access to care for patients, jeopardize the ability of residency programs to train physicians, and increase additional physician shortages.  

2. Support, Educate, Pitch

Join DOs during National Osteopathic Medicine Week (April 14-20) to help fill the doctor supply by supporting doctors of osteopathic medicine, and inspiring students to become doctors of osteopathic medicine. 

Support the American Osteopathic Association’s (AOA) “Doctors That DO” campaign to learn more about real DOs who make a real difference.

Educate patients about osteopathic medicine (OM) offerings and specialties to drive awareness and utilization. Educate fellow clinicians to drive patient referrals and continuity of care. The AOA Store offers several types of informational materials in both English and Spanish.

Pitch the rapid growth and nationwide success of osteopathic medicine to curious patients and hopeful medical students. Explain in simple terms how OM is not an antagonist to allopathic medicine, but a widely-recognized complement in maintaining accessible healthcare for all. The AOA suggests using a snappy elevator pitch like this:

 “There are two types of fully licensed physicians in the U.S. – MDs and DOs. Our training and education are very similar and equally rigorous, but DOs come at the practice of medicine from a different philosophy.
We tend to partner with our patients to help them get healthy and stay well.​​”

Resources:

1. Dall, Tim & West, Terry & Chakrabarti, Ritashree & Reynolds, Ryan & Iacobucci, William. (2018). 2018 Update The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2016 to 2030 Final Report Association of American Medical Colleges. 10.13140/RG.2.2.25694.48963.

2. Heath, Sarah. “Understanding Physician Shortage Issues, Patient Care Access.” PatientEngagementHIT, 28 Dec. 2017, patientengagementhit.com/news/understanding-physician-shortage-issues-patient-care-access.

3. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(3):e190554. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.0554

4. Liu, Evonne. “Surge in DO Students Could Help Ease Physician Shortage.” Modern Healthcare, 12 Jan. 2018, www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180112/NEWS/180119947/surge-in-do-students-could-help-ease-physician-shortage.

5. “OMP Report.” American Osteopathic Association, osteopathic.org/about/aoa-statistics/.