It's not too often primary-care physicians are compared to football stars. But if you talk to hospital employers, retail outlets, insurance companies, and urgent care centers, perhaps they should be.
Turns out these and other employers want good primary-care docs, badly. And the steadily increasing demand for primary-care doctors is just the first of many interesting employment trends physician recruiter Merritt Hawkins revealed in its annual report: "Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives." The report is based on 2012 search data from physician placement agencies, including Merritt Hawkins and AMN Healthcare.
According to the survey, family physicians were the most requested search for the seventh year in a row, followed by general internists. Also, perhaps unsurprisingly, hospital employment of physicians continues, as 64 percent of employer searches featured hospital employment of physicians, up from 11 percent in 2004.
"There's a doctor shortage in America, but mostly a primary-care shortage," Kurt Mosley, vice president of strategic relationships for Merritt Hawkins, told Physicians Practice. "And it all stems from the fact that the primary-care physicians are starting to be the quarterbacks again of healthcare delivery system. Everybody wants to be in the primary-care business."
Specifically, primary-care physicians are at the core of U.S. government-fueled initiatives to control cost while improving quality, Mosley added.
"They're the initial contact with the patient" who make sure "patients get treatment they need and not overtreatment," he explained.
But it's not just physicians who seeing a greater appeal to employers trying to fill primary-care needs. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners made the list of “top 20 search assignments” for the first time, as did geriatrics, according to the survey.
"Nurse practitioners and physician assistants can handle a lot of cases primary-care doctors are seeing," said Mosley. "Eighty percent of nurse practitioners in America are in primary care, so they work very closely with primary-care doctors in working with patients"
However, various studies have anticipated a shortage of NPs and PAs in primary care in five years.
"Many of the newer NPs want to make more money so they’re opting for specialty care," said Mosley.
Physicians should also take note that 39 percent of 2012 searches featured production bonuses that rewarded physicians for quality of care, up from less than 7 percent in 2011. But this doesn't make many doctors happy in light of the fact that the Affordable Care Act has paved the way for a higher volume of patients to seek primary care, said Mosley.
The good news for doctors? With such high demand, there's more leeway to cherry pick the best opportunities.
"Obviously you're in a seller's market if you're in primary care," said Mosley. "They have the power … they're in such high demand … it's back in their court now."