Harvard Health Letter

How to cope with the neurologist shortage

It's not your imagination if you think it's getting harder to see or find a neurologist. A study published in the April 17, 2013, online issue of Neurology found that the demand for neurologists is growing faster than the supply. The study authors found the United States already needs 11% more neurologists to meet current needs and predicted that by 2025, that number will grow to 19%. Researchers suggest that fewer medical students are choosing to go into neurology because of lower reimbursements from insurance. It comes at a time when rates of brain diseases such as dementia and stroke are rapidly increasing along with the rising number of aging baby boomers. How does that affect neurology appointments? "You have very long wait times to see a neurologist, especially for chronic diseases like dementia, and you have huge shortages of specialists to treat people with stroke," says Dr. Lee Schwamm, a Harvard Medical School neurology professor. Dr. Schwamm says the shortfall could turn into a public emergency if society doesn't act soon. "We need to build capacity now, because it takes 10 years to train a neurologist. So we need to figure out how to make that career more attractive."

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