A newly released ASCO study, titled "Future Supply and Demand for Oncologists: Challenges to Assuring Access to Oncology Services," projects a potential shortfall of medical oncologists in the United States, which could severely compromise access to quality care. Cancer Care & Economics (CC&E) recently spoke with Michael Goldstein, MD, an oncologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston. Dr. Goldstein, chair of the ASCO Workforce in Oncology Task Force, contributed to the development and analysis of this important study.
CC&E: What was the impetus for the ASCO study?
DR. GOLDSTEIN: Several years ago, practices around the country reported having difficulty recruiting new oncologists. Detecting a potential trend, ASCO met with committees and staffers on Capitol Hill and related what we perceived as a growing shortfall of medical oncologists. The legislators asked ASCO to produce hard data to back up the claim, and, as a result, ASCO commissioned a study to analyze the future supply and demand scenario for oncology services across the nation.
CC&E: Please explain the data collection methodology.
DR. GOLDSTEIN: ASCO contracted with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to do the actual clinical data gathering under our direction. The study had four parts. We surveyed fellows who were just starting their oncology training program; fellows who had just completed an oncology training program; oncology fellowship program directors; and about 4,000 practicing oncologists around the United States. The study drew upon National Cancer Institute (NCI) analyses of Medicare data to estimate future demand and utilization of oncologist services.
CC&E: What is the projected shortfall of medical oncologists?
DR. GOLDSTEIN: If the current trends continue, by the year 2020 there could be a shortfall of somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 medical oncologists, roughly one-quarter to one-third of the supply we had in 2005. This translates into a shortage of patient visits upward of 15 million.