U.S. Physician Demand Escalates

With increases in longevity, population, and health insurance coverage, comes an ever-increasing physician shortage in the United States.  While there is a movement to allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to be able to do more, as well as a growing crusade to advance telemedicine initiatives, progress is currently painfully slow.  The Association of American Medical Colleges represents all 141 U.S. medical schools and 17 in Canada, as well as 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.  The AAMC projects a shortage of 90,000 physicians by 2025; that’s less than a decade out.  Of the 90,000 shortage, one-third are primary care physicians and two-thirds are specialists.

So, what’s happening in the near term?  Physician salaries are skyrocketing as the competition heats up for the physicians that are in the current workforce.  Merritt Hawkins reviewed data on its recent 3,342 physician placements and published the findings in the company’s 2016 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives report.  In the 20 specialties reviewed, salaries increased in 19 of those.

Regarding mental health, the federal government has designated nearly 4,000 counties as Health Professional Shortages Areas.  The Merritt Hawkins report notes that nearly half of U.S. counties lack mental health providers.

The Merritt Hawkins data also shows that the 5 specialties in highest demand across the United States are family medicine, psychiatry, internal medicine, hospitalist and obstetrics-gynecology.  Here is a snapshot of other salary data (and year-over-year increases) from the report:

Non-invasive cardiology – $403,000 – up 21%

Obstetrics-gynecology – $321,000 – up 16%

Otolaryngology – $380,000 – up 15%

Urology – $471,000 – up 14%

Dermatology – $444,000 – up 13%

Family medicine – $225,000 – up 13%

General surgery – $378,000 – up 12%

Psychiatry – $250,000 – up 11%

Merritt Hawkins disclosed that over the past year, 32% of their clients offered physicians a production bonus that was in some way tied to value-based metrics (e.g. patient satisfaction).  This is up 23% from last year’s report.  The company also noted that only 6 percent of total physician compensation is tied to quality or value-based metrics.

As an aside, if you are interested in looking at the physician shortage by state, check out the Workforce Data and Reports published by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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