U.S. Predicts Shortage of Intensivists
The number of available doctors who specialize in treating critically ill patients in the U.S. likely will not meet the demands of the nation's aging population by 2020, according to a report released on Monday by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the AP/Providence Journal reports. At the request of Congress, in 2003 HRSA analyzed whether the U.S. will have enough intensivists to meet demand under different scenarios in 2020.
The agency found that under the lowest projection, the expected supply of 2,800 intensivists in 2020 would be adequate to meet the needs of patients in intensive care units. However, the agency said that the lowest-projection scenario is unlikely because more hospitals are expected to add intensivists to their ICU staff in the coming years. As a result, HRSA said, an additional 4,300 doctors might be needed by 2020 (Freking, AP/Providence Journal, 5/22).
The report found that patients in acute care hospitals currently receive more than 18 million days of care in intensive care units every year but that many vulnerable populations have limited access to intensivists. Meanwhile, demand for intensivists likely will increase 38% by 2020, according to the report (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 5/22).
HRSA said Congress should consider financial incentives to attract and retain intensivists (AP/Providence Journal, 5/22). The Critical Care Workforce Partnership, an alliance of medical societies, recommended expanding opportunities for U.S.-trained international medical graduates to practice in the U.S, increasing medical and nursing school capacity to train intensivists and increasing funding for critical care research in elderly populations, CQ HealthBeat reports.
CCWP said increasing the intensivist supply could help save up to 54,000 lives annually (CQ HealthBeat, 5/23).
Peter Wagner, president of the American Thoracic Society, said, the "HRSA report is clear. ...A shortage is not only imminent but upon us, and, unless steps are taken to address the shortage, patients with life-threatening diseases and others being cared for in ICUs will suffer" (AP/Providence Journal, 5/22).