Number of interventional, vascular radiologists outpacing overall physician growth in U.S.

The number of vascular and interventional radiologists is quickly outpacing the national overall growth rate of physicians, according to a new workforce analysis.

Healthcare organizations from India to Ohio scrutinized U.S. physician data spanning 2015 to 2019 for their findings, shared March 19 in Clinical Imaging. Over that time, the number of total active doctors grew by 1.8% per year, while VIRs increased at an 8.3% clip. Vascular surgeons trailed behind at 4.4%, while diagnostic radiologists rounded out the bottom at 0.06%.

Interventional radiology is a rising subspecialty, treating nearly 1 in 10 U.S. inpatients and continually welcoming residents into the field. Many experts only expect this workforce to keep expanding, the researchers explained Friday.

“With the growing role of IR inpatient management across a broad spectrum of disease processes and with the aging patient population, it is imperative to maintain an adequate vascular and interventional radiology workforce across the country in order to provide adequate access to specialized … care to our patients,” Vibhor Wadhwa, MD, with the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Division of Interventional Radiology, and colleagues wrote.

For their study, the team looked at the American Association of Medical Colleges’ state workforce data for 2015, 2017, and 2019. Wadhwa et al. keyed in on variables for each state, including active physicians, total physicians per specialty and female physicians in VIR.

Below are additional findings from their research:

  • Per 100,000 people, vascular and interventional radiology docs in the U.S. increased from 0.99 in 2015 to 1.10 in 2019. During that same time, vascular surgeons jumped from 0.99 to 1.14; diagnostic rads fell from 8.61 per 100,000 individuals down to 8.43.
  • From 2015 to 2019, the female VIR workforce increased by 16% annually, representing 6.8% of total vascular and interventional physicians in 2019. In comparison, the rate of women in vascular surgery grew by 21%, radiology by 2% and radiation oncology by 2.4% during this stretch.
  • Colorado and Minnesota reported the largest growth rate for VIR physicians (15%). Maryland, meanwhile, had the highest proportion of women in VIR at 18%. And the District of Columbia tallied the highest number of VIRs at 3.7 per 100,000 people in 2019
  • Alaska, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming were the only states without an active vascular and interventional radiology physician in 2019.

The researchers reported a number of limitations to their study, including possible misclassification of VIR physicians as diagnostic radiologists stemming from recent changes in IR training pathways.

Read the entire study in Clinical Imaging here.

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