Study Projects Acute Oncologist Shortfall by 2020

Forty-eight percent increase in demand could be met by just a 14 percent increase in capacity

WEDNESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- An aging U.S. population and better cancer survival rates means that demand for oncology services could outstrip supply by up to 15 million visits by 2020, according to a report in the March issue of the Journal of Oncology Practice.

Researchers in the Association of American Medical Colleges Center for Workforce Studies compared projected patient needs using surveys from some 5,000 oncologists, oncology fellows and oncology fellowship program directors. They looked at workload, training opportunities, census data and cancer registry data, among other sources.

While supply and demand are largely in balance today, demand for oncology services is projected to rise from 41 million in 2005 to 61 million in 2020. That jump in demand will correspond with an "acute shortage" by 2020, with just a 14 percent increase in capacity to accommodate a 48 percent increase in demand (a shortage of between 9.4 and 15 million visits, or up to 3,800 oncologists).

"American Society of Clinical Oncology, policy makers, and the public face major challenges ahead to forestall likely shortages in the capacity to meet demand for oncology services," the authors write. "The nation is facing a potential crisis, but action taken throughout the next several years can minimize the crisis and may even lead to more effective approaches to delivering high-quality oncology services."

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