In the face of the widely anticipated physician shortage, many of our imaging leaders have questioned what these shifting dynamics mean for the future of the radiology workforce. In response, we’ve compiled our latest on the current makeup and future of the radiologist workforce to help you better understand where the workforce is heading and how to prepare for the anticipated changes.
The current state:
According to the American College of Radiology’s 2015 Commission on Human Resources Workforce survey findings, for the first time ever, the percentage of body imagers (including gastrointestinal and genitourinary imaging) now trumps the percentage of general radiologists in the workforce. These body radiologists currently make up the largest proportion of the radiologist workforce and the number of those employed in this sub-specialty has grown by 72% over the last two years!
Conversely, the number of general radiologists has fallen by almost half in the past two years, now accounting for 12.8% of all radiologists. The other largest groups of specialists are below, listed in descending order:
- General interventional radiologists
- Musculoskeletal imagers
- Breast imagers
- Nuclear medicine
- Basic research
The largest proportion (30%) of radiology jobs in 2015 are projected to be in the South, followed by 14% in the Midwest, with the remaining jobs in the Mid-Atlantic, West, Southwest, and New England areas, in decreasing order. While the largest majority of jobs are projected to be in private practice (47%), the American College of Radiology estimates another 32% will be in academic practice and 17% in hospitals.
Signs of a looming shortage:
Recent data has indicated strong signs of an already existing lack of radiologists to meet market demand. A historical perspective study from the Journal of Academic Radiology recently shed light on the outsized demand for radiologists, calling attention to a rise in the number of residency positions from 1,090 to 1,156 in the last 5 years despite applicants for radiology residency positions dropping during that same period from 1,431 to 1,141. Further, given that 7% of all radiologists are older than age 65 and 22% are between the ages of 56 and 65, the looming retirement of a large portion of the radiology workforce threatens to create a further need for these specialists.
The experts estimate that outpatient imaging volumes will grow by 7% over the next five years. With increased access to health care being a top priority for providers and policy makers alike, the decreasing availability of radiologists may well indicate a potential radiologist shortage at a time of unprecedented demand. As is the case with many other medical specialties, elevating the role of the non-physician providers can pose an opportunity to meet this outstanding demand for imaging services despite physician shortages.
Source: The Advisory Board Company
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AS in Radiologic Technology Program (Concord Campus)
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