Physician Recruitment Trends: 2012 Statistics and What it Means for the Future

Healthcare saw some major changes in 2012, most stemming from 2010's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, others coming from market forces and physician shortages. These changes have influenced physician recruitment across the country — both in terms of the types of physicians that hospitals and health systems are looking for and where the physicians are going.

To that end, The Medicus Firm, a Dallas-based physician search company, rounded up the top 12 specialties it placed last year and the five states with the most physicians placed in 2012. Jim Stone, president of The Medicus Firm and president-elect of the National Association of Physician Recruiters, explains what last year's statistics reveal for physician recruitment in the future.

Top specialties

The following were Medicus' 12 most placed specialties in 2012:

1. Family practice
2. Hospitalist
3. Internal medicine
4. Pediatrics
5. Neurology
6. Surgery
7. Obstetrics and gynecology
8. Orthopedic Surgery
9. Psychiatry
10. Cardiology
12. Pulmonary disease and critical care

Last year's top-placed specialties revealed two major trends in physician recruitment that are likely to continue this year.

Prevalence of primary care. The three primary care specialties — family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics — made up 36.8 percent of all of the specialties placed by The Medicus Firm last year. "The huge percentage of primary care searches is definitely something new, and we're anticipating that's going to continue," says Mr. Stone.

The focus on primary care can be attributed to hospital's and health system's increased focus on providing patient-centered, accountable care. Having the right number of high- quality primary care physicians is becoming increasingly important, because having a large primary care physician base can help build market share and manage the health of a population. Both have become focuses in the new healthcare landscape.

Increasing number of hospitalists. Hospitalists clocked in as the second-most placed specialty in 2012, making up 12.5 percent of all specialties placed by The Medicus Firm last year. "For that to be on equal footing [with primary care] was a big surprise," said Mr. Stone. The large number of placed hospitalists becomes more surprising when considering the fact that the Society for Hospital Medicine estimates there are just more than 40,000 practicing hospitalists in the country.

Mr. Stone says the demand for hospitalists is high. One reason hospitals recruit hospitalists aggressively is because it can make recruiting other physicians easier. "It makes it easier to recruit primary care physicians because [hospitals] use hospitalists for inpatient work," Mr. Stone explained. That leaves primary care physicians with a lighter workload and more time for outpatient work.

States and market types

The following are the top five states where The Medicus Firm placed physicians last year:

1. Ohio
2. Pennsylvania
3. Mississippi
4. Texas
5. California

Last year's top five states were not all that unusual, says Mr. Stone. More interesting, he says, is the market types where the physicians were placed. "We're doing more work in larger areas than what we've traditionally done," Mr. Stone says. According to The Medicus Firm, about 25 percent of physicians were placed in major metropolitan areas — that percentage is usually around 10 to 12 percent.

This trend can be attributed to the growing physician shortage. "What we're seeing is [that] physician shortages, which were in rural…areas, have come home to roost in the major cities as well," says Mr. Stone.

Historically, physicians have gravitated to metro areas, seeing them as a more desirable place to settle; meanwhile, rural and secondary markets could draw physicians in with competitive compensation. Now, that is becoming more difficult. "The shortages have gotten to the point that major metro areas are competing from a financial standpoint, which has stolen the thunder of the rural locations," Mr. Stone says. That means the future of physician recruiting in rural markets is looking bleak going into 2013.

Overall, the types of physicians being placed and where they are going are indicative of the future of healthcare. More hospitals and health systems are looking for primary care providers to spearhead population health management and are utilizing hospitalists to help with their primary care recruitment efforts. Also, the physician shortage is causing difficulties for rural and secondary market providers, and the competition for physicians is likely to grow throughout 2013.

Note: This article was updated to reflect new data from the Society For Hospital Medicine on the estimated number of hospitalists in the country.

More Articles on Physician Recruitment:

Mayo Primary Care Clinic Falls Victim to Physician Shortage, Will Close
Hospital-Physician Tool: White Paper on Physician Employment
Telemedicine Fills Physician Recruitment Gaps at Nantucket Cottage Hospital

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