Issue Brief

No. 855

Challenges of Forecasting Physician Workforce Needs Amid Delivery System Transformation
September 29, 2015


Rob Cunningham, Consultant


As population growth and the aging of the overall population increase demand for health care, policymakers and analysts grapple with whether sufficient health care providers, particularly physicians, will be available to meet that demand. Some argue there are too few physicians already; others say our current supply-demand problems lie with efficiency. But suppose both are correct? Perhaps the real challenge is to understand how the provision of health care services is changing in response to market forces such as payment changes, patients' expectations, provider distributions, and technology innovations. This issue brief revisits what is known about evolving practice organizations, professional mixes, information technology support, and the implications of these and other factors for physician workforce policies.

Related Materials

Institute of Medicine (IOM), Graduate Medical Education That Meets the Nation's Health Needs, Jill Eden, Donald Berwick, and Gail Wilensky, eds., July 29, 2014.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), "Projecting the Supply and Demand for Primary Care Practitioners Through 2020: In Brief," November 2013.

Association of American Medical Colleges, "The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections for 2013 to 2025," report prepared by IHS, Inc., March 2015.

Thomas S. Bodenheimer and Mark D. Smith, "Primary Care: Proposed Solutions To The Physician Shortage Without Training More Physicians," Health Affairs, 32, no. 11 (November 2013): pp. 1881-1886.

Forum resources: "Health Policy Essentials: The Health Care Workforce" (Fundamentals Briefing, February 20, 2015); Rob Cunningham, "Tapping the Potential of the Health Care Workforce: Scope-of-Practice and Payment Policies for Advanced Practice Nurses and Physician Assistants" (Background Paper No. 76, July 6, 2010).

A previous version of this paper was published on October 22, 2013, as "Health Workforce Needs: Projections Complicated by Practice and Technology Changes."

↑ back to top

Browse Topics Side ArrowDown Arrow