The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has released a report, Graduate Medical Education That Meets the Nation's Health Needs, containing recommendations to improve the graduate medical education (GME) system.
In its release, IOM said that specific attention was given to find ways to increase the capacity of the nation's clinical workforce to ensure the delivery of high quality health care that will meet the needs of our diverse population. The Surgical Coalition, representing more than 20 professional societies and approximately 250,000 surgeons and anesthesiologists in the United States, appreciates the 2-year long effort to develop the report.
The country faces a severe physician workforce shortage that will only worsen as health insurance coverage is expanded to millions of Americans and the baby boomers continue to reach retirement age. Overall, by the year 2025, the shortage will approximate 130,600 physicians - 64,800 specialists (including surgeons) and 65,800 primary care physicians - reflecting an equal shortage of specialists and primary care physicians. This shortage has a number of consequences that jeopardize patient access to surgical care, including:
-Demand for surgical services - vascular surgery, neurosurgery, general surgery and urology, in particular - is increasing, outpacing demand for adult primary care services. As a result, patients are experiencing considerable wait times for surgical care.
-The maldistribution rate among surgeons, especially in rural communities, is significant, and in many parts of the country there are no general surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons or neurosurgeons.
-Twenty-five percent of all Americans do not live within 60 minutes of a Level I adult trauma center, and even more do not have a Level I or II children's trauma center within their reach.
-Surgeons are getting older, and nearly forty percent of the current surgical workforce is over the age of 55. Depending on the subspecialty, it can take up to 13 years - including medical school, residency and fellowship - to train a surgeon, and once a surgeon is gone from the workforce he or she is not easily replaced.
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