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TUESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Over the next 15 years, there could be a severe shortage of cardiothoracic surgeons at a time when an aging population will probably increase the demand for surgical procedures that fall under their purview, a new study predicts.
The shortage could lead to diminished quality of care and delays in care for people needing heart and lung surgery, according to the study, which was done by the Center for Workforce Studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges.
By 2025, the researchers say, there could be a 46 percent increase in the demand for cardiothoracic surgeons, but a drop of at least 21 percent in the number of available surgeons.
The looming shortage of surgeons is a matter of supply and demand, said lead researcher Dr. Atul Grover, director of government relations for the association.
"We have not managed to keep up with population growth over the last two decades, so our physician production has stagnated to a point where the number of new entrants into the physician workforce is not going to be enough to keep up with the number of folks retiring," Grover said.
On the demand side, he said, the number of people over age 65 is expected to double in the next 20 years, from 35 million to more than 70 million.
"Those are the people who use the greatest number of health services," Grover said. "Those are the ones with cardiac disease. Those are the ones with pulmonary disease. And those Medicare beneficiaries are the ones who are really going to suffer without an adequate physician workforce."
The conclusions stem from the researchers' analysis of general population data as well as health-care workplace information, using various scenarios to predict what could happen. Their findings are published online July 27 in Circulation.
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