7 Big Challenges Facing Physician Recruitment

It’s tough being a physician recruiter in today’s healthcare landscape. While many recruiters love what they do (and for good reason), they face daily struggles in trying to recruit physicians to join their healthcare organizations. Now as more Americans get access to health insurance every year, the need to recruit and retain even more physicians is stronger than ever. But it isn’t getting any easier, and likely won’t anytime soon.

But what specific challenges do recruiters face? And are all recruiters facing the same ones? Below are seven challenges facing physician recruiters throughout the country, in locations and organizations of all sizes and stripes.

1. Lack of Supply

Now that more Americans have access to health insurance, individuals who haven’t been to the doctor in years will find themselves going in for annual exams with their primary care physicians and often visits with specialists after years of neglecting their own health. Because of this, the need for more physician is dire, with an expected shortage of at least 90,000 physicians by 2020. Unfortunately, the U.S. isn’t minting enough new physicians to keep up with the increased demand. With the number of residency slots remaining stagnant, this is unlikely to change any time soon.

2. Over Saturation

As hospitals and medical groups began acquiring existing physician practices and opening new ones, they began jockeying with their local competitors for market share. As they grew larger and acquired more patients, most areas served by more than one hospital system often find that the job market for physicians is over saturated. Because of this, physicians looking for opportunities in a specific community will often find dozens of opportunities with multiple competitors, leading the competing health systems battling for a limited pool of candidates.

3. Location, Location, Location

Many say that there isn’t a physician shortage, just a physician distribution problem. It’s easy to see why they would think that: many large metro-areas along the coasts have less trouble attracting candidates based on location alone. Meanwhile, recruiters in rural communities and areas with few cultural activities can take well over a year to fill certain searches. This divide is especially true of younger physicians, many of whom became accustomed to having easy access to culture, activities, and recreational options during their medical education and residencies. Because of this, many physicians have begun to prioritize “quality of life” and generally shy away from less populated areas.

4. Lack of Diversity

By 2043, the US census estimates that ethnic and racial minorities will become the majority in America. This trend isn’t just changing the demographic makeup of America, it is also changing how many healthcare organizations approach physician recruitment. Studies show that patients who share ethnic and cultural  concordance with their providers indicate higher patient satisfaction scores, but they also tend to experience longer visits and are more likely to adhere to treatment directives. As organizations strive to provide higher quality care and better outcomes for their patients, they find themselves seeking out physicians who are part of the racial and ethnic backgrounds of their patient population. But while patients are becoming more diverse, the physician population is not, with less than a quarter of medical school graduates belonging to a minority group. Because of this, many physician recruiters struggle to provide their patients with physicians as diverse as they are.

5. Physician Retirement

Over the next decade, many physicians of the baby boomer generation will begin retiring, posing a major threat to healthcare organization’s ability to retain their top physician talent. A combination of an aging physician population and a reluctance of some seasoned physicians to comply with the Affordable Care Act is exacerbating the existing physician shortage. These mass retirements will continue to increase physician turnover rates at a time when hospitals and health systems are already struggling to keep their physicians on board. Even worse, these physicians are taking decades of clinical experience with them as they go.

6. Rapidly Rising Salaries

While the affordable Care Act was supposed to help reign in healthcare costs, one area this isn’t occurring in is physician salaries. Over the last year, physician salaries in many specialties have risen over 13% and show no sign of stopping. Added to the push for organizations to offer recruitment incentives to attract candidates, the cost of recruiting and hiring a new physician is quickly spiraling out of control. This poses a major threat to many healthcare organizations operating on thin margins and strict budgets, making it difficult for them to offer competitive salaries that will attract candidates.

7. A Longer Physician Recruitment Cycle

Because of the increase competition for physician talent, many healthcare organizations are finding that it is taking longer than normal to fill open positions. This is especially true in rural areas or with in demand specialist, where it can take years to fill a search. These longer recruitment cycles have a negative effect on both patients and providers, leaving many patients unable to access care in a timely manner and organizations feeling the pain of millions in lost revenue.

Key Take Aways:

  • The physician shortage is creating multiple problems for physician recruiters due to a lack of supply, and over saturation of the job market, and longer recruitment cycles, all which make it difficult for recruiters to fill open positions.
  • The cost of hiring a physician has skyrocketed, with higher physician salaries and the need to offer recruitment incentives taking a financial toll on many healthcare organizations.
  • The preferences of younger physicians are leading more to cluster in large metro areas along the coast, leaving many organizations in rural areas scrambling to find physicians to serve their communities.
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