doctor and patient

JABSOM student performing an examine

Researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), have found the physician shortage statewide is worsening. Based on Hawaiʻi’s population, the state is an estimated 747 physicians short of the number that it should currently have treating patients.

A growing problem

There are currently 2,894 physicians practicing in Hawaiʻi and one third of them are 55 or older and approaching retirement. The shortage of 747 physicians statewide is expected to increase to a deficit of 1,448 physicians by 2020, only seven years from now. Hawaiʻi’s population as a whole is aging at one of the highest rates in the nation, which means the physician deficit is increasing at the same time that patients’ need for healthcare from age-related illnesses will become more acute.

Estimated supply and shortage numbers, by county:

  • Oʻahu’s 2013 supply—2,127 physicians, current need/demand is 2,494
  • Hawaiʻi’s 2013 supply—336 physicians, current need/demand is 530
  • Kauaʻi’s 2013 supply—130 physicians, current need/demand is 199
  • Maui’s 2013 supply—301 physicians, current need/demand is 418

A local solution is the only answer

“The University of Hawaiʻi medical school is the major source of physicians for the state, both through the education of MDs students (90 percent of whom are Hawaiʻi residents) and our Hawaiʻi residency programs, which oversees training of more than 240 physicians while they work to obtain licensure or board certification,” said Jerris Hedges, JABSOM dean. “These MDs in residency and fellowship training are actually employed at our partner healthcare training institutions helping to treat patients.”

“Meeting the crisis in the Hawaiʻi healthcare workforce is going to have to be a local solution,” explained Hedges. “We are grateful for the foresight of Hawaiʻi’s leaders who nearly 50 years ago established Hawaiʻi’s medical school and continue to support us. Their leadership in this area is a daily source of inspiration to many of us.”

About the workforce assessment

The Hawaiʻi Physician Workforce Assessment, supported by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, surveys doctors at the time of each physician’s licensure every 2 years. The assessment reports annually to the legislature about where physicians are practicing, what their specialty and age is, and whether they accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. The project this year launched an online database to advertise physician openings in Hawaiʻi, at MD Jobs in Hawaiʻi.

The workforce team, JABSOM’s Area Health Education Center also launched the state’s first-ever Education Loan Repayment Program last year, helping physicians, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers repay their educational loans if they commit to serve at least two years treating patients in a rural setting where healthcare workforce shortages are acute.

Read more from this John A. Burns School of Medicine story.

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