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Physician recruitment quicker, not necessarily easier

While searches for primary care doctors are faster than for specialists, not all jobs get filled. But Internet listings make the process less expensive.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted May 14, 2010

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The process of hiring a physician is getting cheaper and faster for in-house recruiters, according to a recent study.

The cost of recruiting a nonsurgical subspecialist declined 37.1%, from $7,945 in 2007 to $5,000 in 2008, according to an Assn. of Staff Physician Recruiters survey issued April 20 by the Medical Group Management Assn. Expenses related to hiring a primary care physician went down 13.7%, from $5,108 in 2007 to $4,406 in 2008.

The data were published online in the "In-House Recruitment Benchmarking Survey: 2010 Report Based on 2008 Data," by MGMA.

The report says the recession and technology -- and how technology is being used to make up for smaller budgets in the recession -- had an impact on the numbers.

"The economy has caused us to sharpen our eye and cut back on the things that are not working and focus with the things that are," said Debbie Gleason, physician development administrator at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

The survey suggested that the increasing use of the Internet for recruitment may account for some of the savings, with the use of online job boards going up 9%. Recruiters also said this strategy was the preferred method of hunting for a physician, although referrals were a close second. Bringing in an outside search firm was a distant third.

"Internet job boards are very cost-effective ways to advertise, and they allow us to reach very large markets very quickly," said Gleason, who also co-chairs ASPR's benchmarking committee.

Researchers also found that recruiting primary care physicians took less time than recruiting specialists. For instance, recruiters spent an average of six months to fill family medicine or internist positions. Finding a pediatrician took five months, although this varied widely by region. Finding an internist in the Eastern part of the U.S. took 200 days, but recruiting a pediatrician in the South took 80 days.

Comparative data from 2007 were not available, and experts cautioned about concluding that filling physician positions had gotten any easier. Survey responses varied widely by location, and other research has suggested that many positions still go wanting. One report released Nov. 16, 2009, by AMN Healthcare Services Inc. found that one in 10 physician positions was unfilled.

"While days to fill a position may be lower, the survey does not capture the number of positions that go unfilled each year. Additionally, the days to fill a position in nonmetropolitan areas -- where the impact of the primary care shortage is greatest -- are higher than those found in large population centers," said Shelley Tudor, also co-chair of the ASPR benchmarking committee.

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