About one-third of cardiovascular practices report a current opening for a cardiologist. This need jumps to nearly 50% when combined with open positions expected in the next 12 months, according to a May CardioSurve survey of 176 U.S. practices.

Most of the short-term workforce need is in clinical cardiology as compared to research. About two-in-five short-term openings are in adult cardiology (40%) followed by interventional (24%), electrophysiology (15%) and imaging (8%). Approximately 40% of the current open positions are the result of retirement or relocation. When asked about expected openings over the next 24 months, 22% of practices indicate workforce needs, with adult cardiology (46%) and interventional (19%) positions topping the list. Interestingly, practices indicating a greater amount of workforce needs are more likely to be hospital-owned or medical school-owned.

These workforce trends are not surprising given the ongoing trend towards hospital integration, new maintenance of certification (MOC) requirements, cuts in funding for graduate medical education (GME) and research, and continued declines in physician reimbursement. Speaking at the ACC’s Legislative Conference in September, ACC President John Gordon Harold, MD, MACC, noted that an overall shortage of 62,900 physicians is expected in the U.S. by 2015, with this number predicted to increase to 130,000 across all specialties including cardiology by 2024.

As the College moves forward with developing and implementing its strategic plan for the next five years, Harold said addressing these workforce issues will be a key strategic priority. Among the tactics for helping solve the workforce shortage: a focus on integrated or team-based care; continued advocacy at the national, state and payer levels for new physician payment models and increased funding for GME and research; and focused assistance on understanding and meeting new MOC requirements.