There is more than enough demand but the supply is low. And the bottleneck is expecting to get worse. A recent report in Journal of the American College of Cardiology refers to the shortage of heart specialists in the US. Currently, the US is in short supply of about 1600 general cardiologists and almost 2000 interventional cardiologists. Other heart specialists in short supply are pediatric cardiologists and electrophysiologists. A shortage of 16,000 heart specialists is expected by 2050.
According to Dr George Rodgers who headed the American College of Cardiology Board of Trustees Workforce Task Force
“The thought is that this is currently a problem, we have a huge gap. Our guess is that the deficit in the number of cardiologists is probably going to widen, even double, by the time we get to 2030 or 2050.”
But why the disparity between the number of patients and the number of health care providers? Heartwire cites the following reasons:
- An aging population
- The widespread obesity problem
- Increased incidence of cardiovascular disease
- Increased incidence of diabetes
- People with chronic heart disease have better prognosis and live longer
In contrast, between 750 to 800 new cardiologists enter the heart specialist pool each year. However, with increasing number of cardiovascular patients, these number of new graduates are not enough. The reasons for the small number of doctors going into cardiology may be
- There are very few cardiology fellowships. For every 800 cardiology fellowship positions, there are approximately 1200 applicants.
- There is lack of funding in medical education institutions to take in more cardiology fellows
- There are low number of women and minorities in cardiology. Females account for only about 12% of the current cardiology workforce. African Americans and Hispanics account for just 6% of cardiologists in active practice.
- Cardiologists are also aging. 43% of American cardiologists are older than 55 years old and many may opt for early retirement.
What is also not mentioned in the heartwire article is the fact that
- Cardiologists are not the only medical specialists in short supply. The fields of oncology, neurology and others are also feeling the bottleneck.
- The US is not the only country in short supply of healthcare professionals. Many developed countries are also feeling the shortage, especially in Europe where the population is aging and the birth rate is dropping.
Thus, the shortage is actually a global problem, a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.