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Report shows progress but warns of looming physician shortage crisis

Wisconsin has made steady progress to address a projected shortage of physicians in the state, according to a report released last week by the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce (WCMEW). But changes in physician demographics, combined with an aging patient population, suggest more work is needed to avoid a future crisis.

The report, “A Work In Progress: Building Wisconsin’s Future Physician Workforce,” projects a potential shortfall of as many as 4,000 physicians by 2035 and recommends:

  • A continued focus on expanding graduate medical education in Wisconsin.
  • Expansion and improvement of Wisconsin’s education and training infrastructure.
  • An increased emphasis on recruitment and retention issues.
  • Continued efforts to encourage care transformation.

“Wisconsin has made good progress toward building its future physician workforce,” said WCMEW Executive Director George Quinn in this news release. “But that work needs to be redoubled if we are to meet our future workforce challenges.”

The WCMEW report projects physician demand increasing 25 percent by the year 2035, dramatically more than Wisconsin’s projected population increase of 12 percent. Meanwhile, physician supply is projected to increase by 8 percent, but only if Wisconsin continues to attract, train and retain physicians at the current rate, and if physicians see the same number of patients as they do currently.

“These numbers are certainly cause for concern,” said Donn Dexter, MD, the Wisconsin Medical Society’s chief medical officer. “And unfortunately, the problem is further exacerbated by increasing levels of physician burnout and dissatisfaction.

“Implementing the recommendations in this report, along with others already underway—including those of the Society’s Physician Experience Task Force—is a positive step forward,” Dr. Dexter added. “We need to continue to work together to address this problem so we can ensure that our patients continue to have access to the high-quality care Wisconsin is known for.”

WCMEW is a multistakeholder organization comprised of the following members: Wisconsin Medical Society, Association of Nurse Educators of Wisconsin, Medical College of Wisconsin, Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin, Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants, Wisconsin Hospital Association and the Wisconsin Nurses Association.

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