2019 Outlook for Hiring Physicians


For several years, reports of the ongoing physician shortage have dominated the headlines.  To give healthcare leaders the comprehensive information they need to invest and adjust to the physician shortage, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) began publishing physician supply and demand reports in 2015.  The most recent update projects an even greater shortfall between supply and demand than previously forecasted.

By the Numbers – According to the AAMC, the total physician shortfall will be between 42,600 and a staggering 121,300 by the year 2030. Primary care shortages are projected up to 49,300 and non-primary care specialties up to 72,000 physicians. Oncology and Surgery are projected to be among the hardest hit specialties. The data shows that new cancer cases are likely to increase by 42% by 2025, while the number of oncologists is expected to grow by only 28%. This exacerbates the current shortage, as more than 70% of U.S. counties already have no medical oncologists. General surgery is facing a shortfall of almost 21,400 qualified surgeons over the next 5 years.

Contributing Factors – A combination of factors are creating this perfect storm which makes recruiting and retaining physicians more challenging than ever:

  • Demographics – The growing shortage is primarily due to an uncontrollable factor: demographics. America is aging, physicians included. By 2030, the number of Americans over age 65 is projected to grow by 50%, consuming healthcare at a higher rate as they age. At the same time, more than one-third of all currently active physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade.
  • Education/Residency Disconnect – Medical schools have been increasing their class sizes, but the number of residency slots have not increased commensurately to keep up with demand.
  • Working Fewer Hours – The trend toward physicians working fewer hours per week is reducing the FTE physician supply. AAMC’s updated report reflects new data showing declines in physician working hours across all age groups, not just millennials.
  • Burnout – According to the 2018 Future of Healthcare Report, 7 out of 10 physicians are unwilling to recommend healthcare as a profession because they are disheartened by changes to the practice of medicine. As many as 78% of physicians experience feelings of burnout associated with paperwork overload, frustration with Electronic Health Records (EHR) and challenges to their clinical autonomy by administrators.
  • Regulatory Burdens – A full 86% of respondents to the Medical Group Management Association 2018 survey reported an increase in regulatory burdens that impact the time they can spend with patients. More than half (54%) said that administrative overload is contributing to their likelihood of retirement within five years.

Looking Ahead – Workforce trends are important to understand for planning yet largely outside your control. But, you can improve the outlook for hiring in 2019 and beyond by focusing on factors you can influence within your organization and community.

  1. Create environments that physicians want to work in. Workplace culture will continue to be a dominant factor in attracting physicians to open positions. Your most important role as a leader is to proactively nurture a healthy cultural environment to support success in hiring and retaining physicians.
  2. Promote patient care over paperwork. Increase the utilization of clinical scribes to increase the quality and quantity of time physicians spend with patients. Also, ensure that EHR workflows are not impacting patient care.
  3. Strive for physician work/life balance. If you do not actively help physicians avoid burnout, you will continually fight turnover rates, retention deficits and prolonged vacancies. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners can ease the burden on doctors, allowing them time to pursue personal activities, research opportunities, and professional development.
  4. Embrace technology solutions. Telemedicine solutions can ease demands on over-extended physicians. Encourage patients to seek out telehealth alternatives to ease overcrowded schedules and increase the efficiency of routine office visits.
  5. Influence legislative reforms. Well-intentioned legislation often carries negative consequences on the practice of medicine.  Seek out opportunities to play a larger role in educating policy-makers about the impact of their actions on physicians and patient care.

For information about how Jackson Physician Search can help you develop attract and retain the qualified clinicians you need, contact one of our industry experts today.

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