Top Issues Challenging Academic Medicine: Seven Key Takeaways from The AAMC Annual Meeting 2019


From November 9th through the 12th, I attended The AAMC Annual Meeting, “Learn, Serve, Lead” in Phoenix, Arizona.  Along with over 4,800 of my colleagues, we participated in a variety of workshops, round table discussions, and presentations by distinguished healthcare industry leaders.  The topics presented ranged from racial and economic injustice to partisan gridlock, and innovative solutions to combat burnout and other healthcare industry challenges.  There are several key trends taking shape in our world, as well as many questions that need to be answered in the coming months and years. Here are seven key takeaways from this year’s AAMC Annual Meeting.

  1. The 2019 AAMC data suggests an even more dire physician shortage of 46,900 – 121,900 physicians by 2032 – we must recognize this presents both a rural AND urban staffing challenge. It’s easy to fall victim to the rural versus urban mindset as one studies the physician shortage challenge. Yet, as we dig further into the data, it’s clear the shortage is affecting all areas. We all must address the HPSAs and other dimensions to find a solution that provides better access to care for all Americans.
  2. Succession planning within academic medical institutions and medical schools – administrators and physicians are on different pages. Succession planning can be a tough conversation, but it is critical for strategic planning and quality patient care. Remaining flexible is very important to physician leaders and physicians when it comes to retirement and succession planning, but neither group can agree on what that looks like. For example, in surveys, 42% of physician respondents would like part-time teaching roles, yet just 70% of the institutions provide that option. It was also interesting to discover that 32% of faculty respondents identified burnout as a retirement factor, yet 57% of the institutions cited physician burnout as the main retirement factor. Also, surprisingly, in spite of an aging population, only 43% of medical schools reported having a formal retirement policy.
  3. Telehealth is now a possibility for all communities, as CMS is releasing new telehealth payment parity in 2020. We can expect that payment parity will result in higher demand and an increase in access points. Today, 95% of medical students are interested in learning more about telemedicine. The technology is clearly becoming a viable, collectible solution, but the unanswered question is facilitating physician training.  With overloaded schedules through UME and GME, the question, “how and when do physicians receive telemedicine training?” is what everyone is asking.
  4. The relationship between the paired leaders of the Academic Enterprise and the Clinical Enterprise impacts everything from budgets, expectations, retention, and culture. As a top-down driven function, trust, communication, and transparency between enterprise leadership groups are more important than ever. Cultivating this working relationship ultimately impacts the success or failure of key service lines and departments.
  5. Trends show that growth strategies should be value-based versus price-extractive, meaning we grow by being better and not by getting bigger. This is done by leveraging cost, quality, and service advantages. The success factors include: an increasing share of covered lives, competing based on outcomes, minimizing total cost, assembling the network, offering convenience, and, of course, expanding access to care.
  6. Will academic medicine soon develop productivity units to mirror Clinical RVUs? This new academic currency is a fascinating subject – and I’m sure other physician leadership consultants feel the same. The biggest outstanding question on everyone’s mind is, “what are you doing with all of the protected time?”
  7. By next year, the United States will have a minority-majority for all citizens under the age of 18 – matching providers to our patient population has never been more crucial. Throughout the next ten years, the overall population will be led by minorities. Tracking and monitoring diversity for providers and leaders, while still maintaining inclusiveness, is a priority and should be considered the norm.

It’s an exciting and volatile time in academic medicine and overall healthcare with continuous transformation on the horizon. Mergers & Acquisitions and consolidation remain at an all-time high, and no one is expecting this trend to reverse.  For now, all of us will be monitoring the different alignments, integrations, and relationships between healthcare organizations and their academic counterparts.

As a physician leadership search consultant, I look forward to helping prepare our leaders for this new normal.  My focus is on navigating the ever-changing healthcare environment and assisting our clients through smarter recruitment and finding ways to increase retention, so they can focus on what matters most – providing the best care for the patients they serve.

At Jackson Physician Search, we help healthcare organizations and academic medical centers to recruit physician leaders. Our innovative process includes rolling well-qualified and interested candidates as they become available versus waiting for a full slate, reducing the number of interviews with cutting edge technology, and providing transparent and frequent communication to search committees. This strategy reduces candidate attrition and time-to-fill while increasing recruitment return on investment. Please contact our physician leadership experts at Jackson Physician Search for more information.

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