Physician Update

February 28

Healthcare is the fastest growing industry sector in the United States, and in December 2010 healthcare had a net gain of 36,000 jobs. This included 21,000 in ambulatory services, 8,000 in hospitals and 7,000 in nursing/residential care. With the bulk of care delivery being directed by physicians, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts an increased need of physicians of 21.8% and a 39% increase in physician assistants. Where will they come from? How will Americans receive the health care they want and deserve?

Much has been said in the past 12-months about healthcare reform, and a recent study by Thomson Reuters and HC Plexus indicates that 65% of physicians surveyed believe that health care will deteriorate in the next 5 years, while 17% feel it will stay the same. With 82% seeing no improvement it is already having some impact on those considering the medical profession as a career. This same survey noted that 58% of physicians surveyed felt that reform will have a negative effect on patients.

AAMC Center for Workforce Studies, in their 2010 supply and demand survey, reports physician shortages of 13,700 in 2010, 62,900 in 2015 and 91,500 by 2020. The data was projected post-healthcare reform so includes forecasted changes in the delivery system.

There is a big change in employment focus in the physician ranks. Many have accepted the fact that running a business in not always a top priority for them. Quite often physicians are not strong in the business world and the idea of working for a company/hospital is enticing. A steady paycheck, no office hassles, malpractice insurance, reimbursement issues, time to do what they love and patient satisfaction are all part of this decision. Much of this thinking, along with the aging physician population, will hasten the shortages already discussed. One third of physicians will be retiring between now and 2020, while the supply is forecast to increase by only 7%. During this period, the American population over 65 years of age will increase by 36%, so who will be monitoring their care?

As any organization faces these challenges, it gives us solid information to know that the strategies needed to recruit physicians, now and in the foreseeable future, will need to be targeted, progressive and outcome oriented. Whether an organization is matching residents, hiring new graduates or recruiting experienced specialists, the challenges will be many. Without enough physicians in the applicant pool, recruiters will need to make sure they understand the industry, the market drivers and the solutions needed.

Recruiting physicians is very similar to recruitment of other top professionals, although many immediately go to a search firm rather than conducting their own search. According to an MGMA study, professional networking is also an integral part of their focus in searching for a job. Although physicians are the heaviest users of mobile among healthcare professionals, their main focus is medical information. While 9% do receive mobile job alerts, social networking is used by 34% of physicians for professional networking (Facebook #1) while 15% use social media for job search. (LinkedIn and Blogs/Forums/Message Boards tied for #1)

A Clinical Workforce Issues Survey reported in 2010 shared information from CEOs around the U.S. It was very clear that this group sees physicians as the main hospital revenue driver (94.7%), while allied health professionals (46.8%) and nurses (39.7) lag far behind.

As we face the next decade in health care, much is exciting and positive. But on the physician employment and recruitment side, recruitment professionals have a tremendous job ahead. Top advice for recruitment – be strategic. Top advice for a parent – encourage your children to choose a health care career. Top advice for a consumer – stay healthy!

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