A new analysis of the U.S. radiation oncology workforce projects a relative balance between the supply of radiation oncologists and the demand for radiation therapy services through 2030.1 The report was produced by Health Management Associates (HMA), a consulting firm commissioned by the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) to conduct an independent assessment of the radiation oncologist workforce. The report accompanies a review commentary from the ASTRO Workforce Task Force published as an article-in-press in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics.
ASTRO assembled its Workforce Task Force in 2021 to address questions related to a potential imbalance in the supply of practicing radiation oncologists in the United States and the demand for radiation therapy services. HMA was tasked to evaluate trends in supply and demand and to model future workforce projections.
The HMA report models several potential scenarios for the future radiation oncologist workforce, based on trends including the number of doctors entering and leaving the specialty; projected growth in Medicare usage because of an aging population; changing demand for radiation therapy (including new indications); increased use of hypofractionation; and radiation oncologist workload. Highlights of the report follow:
The most likely scenario analysis, one that factored in growth of the number of Medicare beneficiaries and increasing productivity per radiation oncologist, projected a relative balance between radiation oncologist supply and demand for radiation therapy services through 2030.
Both the growth of Medicare beneficiaries and changes in physician productivity have a significant impact on the model results and will need to be monitored in the future. To maintain balance in the future workforce, radiation oncologist supply and productivity will need to match the increase in demand expected to result from continued Medicare beneficiary growth and the increasing average age of those beneficiaries.
As a result of a projected slowing in the growth of Medicare beneficiaries beyond 2030, as well as uncertain practice patterns and radiation use in the 5 to 10 years following 2030, the report noted the importance of monitoring trends and updating the analysis with new data beyond 2030.
A modeling tool is available free for the radiation oncology community to evaluate different scenarios.
DISCLOSURE: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit redjournal.org.
1. Shah C, Mohindra P, Arnone A, et al: The American Society for Radiation Oncology Workforce Taskforce Review of the United States Radiation Oncology Workforce Analysis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. March 8, 2023 (early release online).