Objective: The number of rheumatologists per capita has been proposed as a performance measure for arthritis care. This study reviews what is known about the rheumatologist workforce in Canada.
Methods: A systematic search was conducted in EMBASE and MEDLINE using the search themes "rheumatology" AND "workforce" AND "Canada" from 2000 until December 2014. Additionally, workforce databases and rheumatology websites were searched. Data were abstracted on the numbers of rheumatologists, demographics, retirement projections, and barriers to healthcare.
Results: Twenty-five sources for rheumatology workforce information were found: 6 surveys, 14 databases, 2 patient/provider resources, and 3 epidemiologic studies. Recent estimates say there are 398 to 428 rheumatologists in Canada, but there were limited data on allocation of time to clinical practice. Although the net number of rheumatologists has increased, the mean age was ≥ 47.7 years, and up to one-third are planning to retire in the next decade. There is a clustering of rheumatologists around academic centers, while some provinces/territories have suboptimal ratios of rheumatologists per capita (range 0-1.1). Limited information was found on whether rural areas are receiving adequate services. The most consistent barrier reported by rheumatologists was lack of allied health professionals.
Conclusion: In Canada there are regional disparities in access to rheumatologist care and an aging rheumatologist workforce. To address these workforce capacity issues, better data are needed including information on clinical full-time equivalents, delivery of care to remote communities, and use of alternative models of care to increase clinical capacity.
Keywords: ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE; CANADA; MEDICAL STAFF; RHEUMATOLOGY SPECIALTY.