After analyzing the U.S. radiation oncology workforce, investigators projected a relative balance between the supply of radiation oncologists and the demand for radiation therapy services through 2030, according to an American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Workforce Taskforce review published by Shah et al in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics.
ASTRO assembled its Workforce Taskforce 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. The taskforce members included physicians from community practices and academic institutions; radiation oncology residents, residency program directors, and department chairs; as well as members with health equity expertise. The investigators were tasked with evaluating trends in supply and demand as well as model future workforce projections.
Details of the New Report
The investigators’ report modeled several potential scenarios for the future of the radiation oncologist workforce on the basis of trends in the field—including the number of physicians entering and leaving the specialty, the projected growth in Medicare usage as a result of an aging population, the changing demand and addition of new indications for radiation therapy, the increased use of hypofractionation, and the radiation oncologist workload.
The investigators further detailed what the future state of radiation oncology may look like:
“We appreciate the efforts of the ASTRO Workforce Taskforce to address these difficult questions. The report’s findings underscore that the field of radiation oncology is likely to face relative growth and contraction at various times in the years ahead. It is important that stakeholders continue to regularly evaluate workforce needs and analyze trends to help the specialty better understand the potential for over- or undersupply,” emphasized Geraldine M. Jacobson, MD, MBA, MPH, FASTRO, Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at West Virginia University and Chair of the ASTRO Board of Directors.
“The results of this study are encouraging for our specialty. However, they also support the notion that we are most likely in balance over the next few years, and expansion of trainee positions—through both new programs and growing resident cohorts at existing programs—should be considered with caution. The analysis also suggests that we should continue to monitor the workforce needs regularly, as supply and demand can change over time,” concluded senior study author Bruce Haffty, MD, MS, FASTRO, Chair of Radiation Oncology and Associate Vice Chancellor of Cancer Programs at Rutgers Cancer Institute, System Director of Radiation Oncology at RWJBarnabas Health, and Chair of the ASTRO Workforce Taskforce.
The investigators noted that members of the radiation oncologist community may download a modeling tool for free by visiting astro.org.
Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit redjournal.org.The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.