Authors: Thomas R. MIller, Ph.D., M.B.A. et al
ASA Monitor 04 2017, Vol.81, 10-12.
How many anesthesia professionals will be providing patient care in 20 years? How many people will need procedures requiring anesthesia by that time? These may seem like questions best reserved for a crystal ball, but they are questions commonly asked among economists and health policy leaders. Health workforce projections have been conducted for decades and relied upon by researchers and policymakers despite mixed results. In his 1969 publication, Herbert E. Klarman discussed the approaches employed by economists to predict health workforce supply and demand. He correctly stated that “future requirements are based, implicitly or explicitly, on certain assumptions or beliefs concerning the present or recent past.” Because researchers cannot predict the future, they must use assumptions to predict future health workforce needs. Those assumptions often reflect the current environment or include recent changes in the health care workforce and/or patient population, the practice locations of health care professionals, the types of procedures being conducted and the methods by which they are provided. The current environment is often a poor predictor of the health care workforce of the future.