Physicians get many job overtures and should brace for more
■ A quarter of practicing physicians receive 24 to 40 potential job opportunities a month, and a slightly higher proportion of residents get that much.
By Sue Ter Maat — Posted July 8, 2013
When Oklahoma City ob-gyn Jonathan Egly, MD, was in residency about two years ago, he got two job solicitations a week.
During a job search more recently, he received more than four times that amount — eight to 10 notices weekly by email, direct mail and phone calls.
Dr. Egly didn't like all the job feelers bombarding him, although he did like one enough to pursue it. “I take these with a grain of salt, but as it turns out, I landed a job,” said Dr. Egly, who starts his new position in two months in San Antonio.
A study released in June shows that more than half of practicing physicians get at least three employment solicitations a week. Almost 29% receive three to five weekly. Twenty-three percent get six to 10 notices, according to the study based on responses of more than 2,500 physicians in 19 specialties by the Medicus Firm, a physician recruiter. The figures are the same as last year, but a combination of factors points to an even more aggressive recruitment market on the horizon.
The physician shortage is one of the reasons, recruiters said. The Assn. of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of 46,100 primary care physicians and 45,400 doctors from other specialties by 2020. Educators and others say that probably won't change without lifting the cap on Medicare-funded residency slots.
At the same time, doctor turnover is higher because more physicians are working for health systems and hospitals.
An analysis by Accenture of data from the American Medical Association and MGMA-ACMPE, an organization of medical practice managers, projected that only 36% of practicing physicians will hold practice ownership stakes by the end of 2013 — a decline from 57% in 2000.
In 2004, about 11% of recruiting assignments were hospital employment of physicians, a figure that increased to 63% in 2012, according to a survey by Merritt Hawkins & Associates, a physician recruiting firm. Sixty-three percent of job searches between April 2011 and March 2012 were on behalf of hospitals, up from 56% from April 2010 to March 2011.
The ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which is projected to extend coverage to roughly 30 million more people in the next decade, is another contributing factor. More doctors are needed to treat these patients.
“We don't know what will happen when millions more people get health insurance, but that will no doubt increase demand for physicians and hence recruiting,” Phil Miller, vice president of Merritt Hawkins, said in an email. “An increasing number of doctors are 55 years old and older, and sometime this decade, we believe more physicians will leave medicine each year than will enter the field. And that is when the general public will become even more conscious of the physician shortage and when recruiting will become even more competitive.”
Residents eyed by recruiters, too
The Medicus Firm found that recruiters target doctors long before they enter practice. The firm's survey found that nearly 28% of residents get three to five solicitations a week, and 9% received 21 to 50 weekly.
The number of solicitations began to increase in the late 1990s and early 2000s, partly because email added another way to reach physicians, said Jim Stone, president of the Medicus Firm. As the demand for physicians has grown, so has the physician recruiting industry, translating to even more solicitations, he said.
More than 80% of the nation's roughly 5,000 hospitals are recruiting at any given time, Stone said. They use information filled out by physicians on job boards or obtained through marketing campaigns to send out emails and automated calls about jobs.
Although the number of solicitations to physicians is high, it could be higher, Stone said. Some market forces may have kept solicitations from shooting up even more.
“Mergers and acquisitions have consolidated many recruiting operations,” Stone said in an email. “As large systems buy up smaller practices and facilities, all those recruitment efforts from multiple sites will now be coming from one centralized office, which now may be seeking several primary care doctors or surgeons. Therefore, instead of getting five separate emails about five jobs at five different practice locations, a physician may get one single email from 'ABC Healthcare,' which has now acquired said five practices and needs a new doctor for each of the five locations.”
Economic rebound spurs job changes
The improving economy also has motivated recruiters because they realize that many physicians weren't able to change jobs during the recession, recruiters said. Some doctors wanted to switch jobs but stayed for fear their undervalued homes wouldn't sell, they said.
There are signs of movement, however. The physician departure rate at large practices was 6.8% in 2012 — the highest it has been in the eight years that the American Medical Group Assn. and Cejka Search have conducted their Physician Retention Survey. That rate is up from a low of 5.9% in 2009, the last official year of the recession.
“I would say there is no question physician recruiting activity is increasing, in part due to the doctor shortage and in part due to the improving economy, which allows hospitals and groups the financial latitude to get back in the recruiting game,” Miller said.