Is there a Looming Physician Shortage and What does it Mean?
- May 28, 2019
In late April 2019, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released its projected forecast on physician supply and demand in the United States. The results found a nationally projected shortage of physicians, which is not surprising, specifically in primary care, with anticipated shortfalls in several other specialties.
Our experience at Coker reflects the same expectation. Most of our clients have a critical need for primary care (family practice and internal medicine) physicians. General internal medicine remains a crucial need in many locations since so many of the newly trained internists are opting for careers as hospitalists. Specialties such as general surgery and urology are experiencing an aging physician workforce.
As we work with clients in assessing the active physician makeup of their medical communities, concerns arise about access, payer acceptance, and physicians slowing down or opting out of the call schedule. Organizations are concerned about their ability to replenish their medical staff, especially in certain specialties. These are concerns that can have a significant impact on the demand for new physicians/specialties in a market. Having an understanding of these factors is a critical component of an effective provider recruitment plan. A comprehensive physician needs assessment of an organization should take into account these factors in the development of recruitment priorities.
Many health systems are seeking recruitment strategies, such as the recruitment of Advanced Practice Providers (APP) to provide reasonable access to primary care services to patients. While this approach does not replace the need for primary care physicians, it does address some level of the access concern in these specialties. Further, the recruitment packages in primary care and other certain specialties are reflective of high demand. Organizations are providing signing bonuses, pre-employment stipends, and educational loan repayment incentives in their efforts to recruit physicians. In these efforts, it is imperative that there be an understanding and compliance with commercial reasonableness and fair market value compensation.
There is no right answer in addressing this issue. Organizations must be proactive rather than reactive in their medical staff development strategies. Having an up-to-date community/physician needs assessment is an initial step in dealing with an ongoing physician recruitment program.
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