Practitioner Shortages and Demand: a Summary

Today, some communities are already feeling the effects of the national shortage of trained medical providers. For example, in Josephine County, Oregon, there is only 1 doctor per 486 people. While most communities don’t have such dire numbers, many patients have to wait longer or travel further to get medical care. Regionally and nationally, communities and healthcare organizations are partnering together to take steps to ensure local access to care.

These six interesting facts begin to explain the complexities of provider shortages.

  • Fluctuating costs, technological advances, legislative changes, and an aging population all impact today’s healthcare system.Costs are frequently connected to advances in technology, insurance requirements, and legislative changes.As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the needs and demands placed on the healthcare system are systemically increasing.All of these factors have shaped today’s healthcare industry and impact the discussion of provider demands and shortages.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for physicians and surgeons will grow 14% percent between 2014 and 2024.
  • Between 2014 and 2024, the need for physician assistants will increase 30% and the need for nurse practitioners will grow 31%.
  • The United States Department of Health and Human Services tracks the provider shortage areas using the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) database.This database tracks provider shortages in primary care, dental care, and mental health on a scale of 0-26.Lower scores indicate fewer shortages.Higher scores indicate increased shortages.
  • Some counties in Washington rank as high as 25 out of 26 on the HPSA scales.Most communities and states need more trained healthcare providers.
  • Primary care providers are routinely needed in every area of the country. Using HPSA data, the Kaiser Family Foundation identified primary care needs by state. Delaware had the fewest primary care HPSA areas with 9.California had the most with 607 primary care HPSA areas.Washington has 155 primary care HPSA areas.

Healthcare is rapidly changing and growing. Eventually, each community will need to address the issue of practitioner shortages. While there are national trends, each region will have a unique experience based on their individual factors. Understanding the shortages is an important first step to address provider demand and how organizations can recruit trained healthcare providers.


HealthcareSource Blog. 6 Factors Shaping the Future of Healthcare. 5 January 2015. (http://education.healthcaresource.com/6-factors-the-future-of-healthcare/) Accessed May 29, 2017.Rappleye, Emily. Most in-demand physician specialties and average incomes. Becker’s Hospital Review. 15 July 2015. (http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-physician-relationships/most-in-demand-physician-specialties-and-average-incomes.html) Accessed May 29, 2017.

Ruiz, Elizabeth. Part 1: Rural areas of Oregon experiencing doctor shortage. Kobi5 News. 17 May 2017. (https://kobi5.com/news/part-1-rural-areas-of-oregon-experiencing-doctor-shortage-53110/.) Accessed May 29, 2017.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) State Health Facts. 31 December 2016. (http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/primary-care-health-professional-shortage-areas-hpsas/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Total%20Primary%20Care%20HPSA%20Designations%22,%22sort%22:%22desc%22%7D) Accessed May 29, 2017.

United States Department of Health and Human Services. HPSA Find. 29 May 2017. (https://datawarehouse.hrsa.gov/tools/analyzers/hpsafind.aspx.) Accessed May 29, 2017.

United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners. 17 December 2015. (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/mobile/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm) Accessed May 29, 2017.

United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Physicians and Surgeons. 17 December 2015. (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/mobile/physicians-and-surgeons.htm). Accessed May 29, 2017.

United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Physician Assistants. 17 December 2015. (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/mobile/physician-assistants.htm) Accessed May 29, 2017.