For more than a decade, Physicians Practice has examined practice conditions in every U.S. state, ranking the best states for physicians to either set up their own shop or become employed.
It is an often duplicated exercise by other publications, but an important one nonetheless.
With rising rates of physician burnout, changing state legislation governing healthcare, and numerous other factors weighing heavily on the profession, many doctors are looking for a change to continue practicing medicine. And for some, a change of location is sometimes the answer.
So this year, as we’ve done in the past, we’ve scoured publicly available data on everything from how expensive it is to live in a state to how many peers also call that location home. We then use an algorithm to “rank” the states that have the most attractive features for physicians.
For our 2017 analysis, we utilized the latest data for cost of living, tax climate (state collections per capita), physician density, and Medicare's Geographic Practice Cost Index (which adjusts physician reimbursement based on regional variation in the cost to treat patients).
For the second year in a row, we partnered with Doximity to utilize their “Residency Navigator” to tell us post-residency retention rate by state, from one to nine years following completion of residency training.
This year, we also partnered with medical malpractice specialists Cunningham Group for malpractice premium averages. And these are true averages as every physician knows malpractice premiums can vary by specialty and the specific city you practice in.
What our metrics don’t capture are things like collegiality of the healthcare community, the local arts and entertainment scene, or access to various recreational activities. So to add a little more commentary to the numbers, Physicians Practice spoke to physicians in the five states that ranked the highest this year in terms of being physician friendly. They are (in order): Mississippi, Texas, Alaska, California, and Arkansas.
The state of Mississippi is known for two things: beautiful Magnolia blossoms and generous hospitality. The latter can be seen in the state's physicians, according to Katherine Patterson, MD of the Indianola Family Medical Group in Indianola, Miss.
"We have a genuinely caring population of physicians. If we're from Mississippi, we are very proud to be from Mississippi and we want to take very good care of the patients that live in our state," says Patterson.
And Mississippi seems like a friendly place for physicians, according to this year's Best States to Practice data. The state finished in the top 10 of all six metrics five times, the most of any other state.
Growing up, Patterson was a military child, living in different locations throughout the southeast before her parents ultimately settled down in Hattiesburg. Patterson, a family physician and obstetrician, has been practicing in Indianola since 2007.
Living close to her family, the state’s actions toward tort reform, and helping underserved communities are just a few of the reasons Patterson continues to practice in Mississippi. "When patients [in Mississippi] find a physician they feel they identify with, they establish a relationship. That relationship can go on for as long as the physician or patient lives … our patient population is hungry for that long-lasting therapeutic relationship with a physician," says Patterson.
Furthermore, being a family physician has given Patterson a great appreciation for Mississippi's strict vaccine laws. "We have a very high rate of vaccination of children. Because of this, we don't see many outbreaks of diseases that other states have seen," says Patterson.
When she is not practicing medicine, Patterson enjoys the beautiful state parks, lakes, and coastline that Mississippi has to offer. "My children, husband, and I also like to go to sporting events. We have two Southeastern Conference [college] teams here in Mississippi and football is really big," says Patterson.
"From music, to art and food, Mississippi has a rich history,” she says. “People travel from all over the country to visit the BB King Museum," located in Indianola.