Why Physician Supply is Dwindling (And How to Keep Yours)

In the next one to three years, more than half of American physicians will cut back on patients, by reducing hours, switching to concierge medicine, retiring or taking other steps that will result in less patients seen, according to a Physicians Foundation survey.


This will result in an estimated physician shortage of 130,000 to 140,000 in the next 10 years, said Kurt Mosley, vice president of strategic alliances at Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, during a session at the Becker’s Hospital Review 4th Annual Meeting in Chicago on May 9.


During his presentation, Mr. Mosley examined the reasons for this decline in physicians, and three strategies hospitals can use to keep their physicians happy and working full-time.


“Doctors are fragile and fragmented,” said Mr. Mosley. He cited bullying in medical school, stressful work weeks, rampant medical malpractice suits and the evolving view of medicine not as an art, but as a trade contributing to an incredibly low morale among physicians. “Over 84 percent of physicians agree the medical profession is in decline,” said Mr. Mosley, and their work hours will reflect this attitude.


What can be done in the face of this new physician dynamic? Mr. Mosley offered three key strategies for retaining physicians:


1. Understand new staffing dynamic. The first step is to understand the new normal for medical staffing, said Mr. Mosley. He referenced a shortage in specialists and a lack of physician associates in primary care, where the demand is highest. Mr. Mosley also warned of a shortage of nurse practioners by 2025, and advocated hospitals begin to plan now for these changes.


2. Enhance the workplace. Take the necessary steps to make physicians’ work go smoothly, said Mr. Mosley. Focus on decreasing turnaround time on tests and labs, maximize operating room availability and adjust compensation as much as possible to show physicians their value, he said.


3. Help physicians with practice restructuring and alternatives. Mr. Mosley advocated embracing new structural methods to help make the most of physicians’ hours at work. Two recommendations include embracing telemedicine and exploring shared appointments, where physicians see six to 15 patients at once for physicals, prenatal wellness and similar reasons.

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