Vital Signs Blog

Incentive packages to lure docs changing

Demand for primary-care doctors remains strong, while the incentive packages they are being offered are changing, according to a survey by Merritt Hawkins, an Irving, Texas-based physician search firm.

Merritt Hawkins had 3,097 recruiting assignments between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013, according to its 20th annual review of physician and advanced practitioners recruiting incentives. And, for the seventh-straight year, the most sought-after physicians were family doctors and internists with 624 and 194 searches respectively.

Radiologists were the most sought-after specialists in 2001, 2002 and 2003, but didn't make list of Top 20 searches for 2013. Anesthesiologists, another previously highly sought specialty group, were no longer in the Top 20 either. Making the list for the first time, however, were two groups of nonphysicians: Nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, with 69 and 50 searches each.

Merritt Hawkins noted that it conducted 1,975 searches for hospital-employed positions, which is nearly six times the number of searches for similar positions in 2004. In addition to employment by hospital systems, the company noted that the growth of accountable care organizations, urgent-care centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers were also adding to the employed-physician-search total.

“The new mantra in healthcare is to be 'everywhere all the time,' ” Merritt Hawkins President Mark Smith said in a news release, adding that primary-care physicians' perceived role as the “quarterback” of quality-improvement and cost-reduction efforts in these settings is driving up demand for their services.

Declining “productivity” in the workforce is also driving recruitment. The report cited a study Merritt Hawkins conducted last year comparing physician work patterns for 2008 and 2012. In 2008, the study found that doctors worked an average of 56.9 hours a week compared with 52.9 in 2012, a 5.9% decrease. In 2008, physicians saw an average of 23.4 patients a day, compared with 20.1 in 2012 for a 16.6% decrease.

The nature of recruitment packages is also changing. Merritt Hawkins reports that 71% of physicians were offered a signing bonus, compared with 80% last year and a high of 85% in 2008/2009. Also, 22% of search assignments for 2012/2013 included a medical education loan-forgiveness offers, compared with 26% in 2011/2012.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks


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