New competitors battle hospitals for physicians

A growing number of organizations are seeking to recruit physicians from a limited pool of candidates, according to AMN Healthcare's "2023 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives."

Such organizations include retail clinics, urgent care centers, telehealth platforms, payers and private equity firms, all of which are competing with hospitals, health systems and medical groups for physicians, according to the executive search firm's report, published Aug. 14.

Payers have expanded their roles as healthcare providers in recent yeaers and an increasing number of physicians are now employed by insurers. 

UnitedHealth Group's Optum continues to scoop up physician groups and cement its place as the largest employer of physicians in the U.S. Its recent acquisition of Middletown, N.Y.-based Crystal Run Healthcare added more than 400 providers and over 30 locations to its network. 

Optum now has more than 1,400 clinics and employs or is affiliated with over 70,000 physicians — significantly ahead of St. Louis-based Ascension (49,000), Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA (47,000) and Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente (24,000).

Payers may be less interested in the revenue-generating potential of physicians than some employers and more interested in their ability to improve prevention and general patient health, according to AMN. By focusing on prevention and population health management, physicians can reduce overall utilization and reduce the number and acuity of claims made to commercial payers. 

Other prominent market disruptors vying for physicians include CVS Health, Amazon and Walgreens-owned VillageMD, as well as telehealth platforms such as Teladoc, Amwell and Doctor on Demand. Private equity firms are also snapping up physicians, spending $206 billion on 1,400 healthcare acquisitions in 2021 and investing $1 trillion on 8,000 healthcare acquisitions in the last decade, according to the report. 

"Healthcare is evolving as new market entrants seek to change how and where care is delivered," Leah Grant, president of AMN Healthcare Physician Solutions, said. "More types of organizations are recruiting physicians, causing salaries to trend up."

Whether a healthcare delivery model is based on convenience, revenue generation or utilization reduction, physicians and advanced practitioners are key to making the model work, according to AMN. Market disruptors are adding to the competition for these providers, which already was strong among traditional employers such as hospitals and medical groups. 

Because of this, the market is highly favorable for physicians and advanced practitioners seeking practice opportunities offered not just by hospitals and medical groups, but by retail outlets, urgent care centers, telehealth platforms, payers and other entities. 

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