While there may be disagreement over numbers, there's no question that there will be a need for care, especially among an aging population and rising numbers of the chronically ill. Coupled with a physician force whose numbers are dwindling, the problem is easy to see.
Much of the need for physicians, of course, depends on healthcare workforce projections, which "have been notoriously unreliable because they are often based upon idealized future delivery systems rather than current utilization trends," Grover and Niecko-Najjum write.
Meanwhile, physicians are growing dissatisfied with their work. One in three practicing physicians older than 55 is expected to retire in the next 10 to 15 years, Grover writes.
Many are not eager to continue practicing medicine. A survey published last year by The Physicians Foundation [PDF], attracted widespread attention when it disclosed that 60% of physicians "would retire today if given the opportunity."
See Also: 6 in 10 Physicians Would Quit Today
So at the top end of the age scale, physicians are leaving by attrition, and at the low end, younger physicians seeking better work-life balance seek to work fewer hours than their predecessors.
In upcoming years, the academic world will be working to enlist more physicians, but the political world is way behind, and that's the problem, Grover tells me. "It's kind of alarming," he says.