It’s harder than ever to find a primary care physician. That’s the truth whether you are a patient or a recruiter.
The Association for Staff Physician Recruiters’ 2013 In-House Physician Recruitment Benchmarking Report found that 70% of the responding organizations looked for a family medicine physician in 2012. The survey collects data from in-house recruiters working for healthcare organizations nationwide. The results also show that 38% of the searches made in 2012 were for advanced practice providers (nurse practitioners and physician assistants), and approximately 38% of the NP searches were for primary care. What’s troubling is that one in three of the positions recruiters tried to fill in 2012 were unfilled by the end of the year.
Organizations located in rural areas had the hardest time finding good help. However, primary care was not among the specialties that were least likely to be filled. That list consists of dermatology, infectious disease, OB/GYN subspecialties, endocrinology/metabolism and neurology. The report also found physician turnover is on the rise. In 2010 the turnover rate was 5.6%. The number jumped to 6.3% and 7.2% in 2011 and 2012 respectively. ASPR Executive Director Jennifer Metivier told Healthleaders Media that the increase in turnover is likely due to the improving economy, which is allowing physicians to relocate and retire. Patients are struggling too. A recent Boston Globe article highlights how many Boston-area residents are struggling to find a primary care physician.
In Boston, only half of primary care physicians are accepting new patients, and when patients find a doctor that will accept them, they have to wait an average of 39 days to get an appointment. Massachusetts is considered by many to be a glimpse into the country’s future because the state enacted its own version of healthcare reform in 2006. With The Association of American Medical Colleges projecting a shortage of 130,000 physicians by 2025, it certainly seems likely that it will get harder to find a good doctor as the years go by. The increased demand for primary care services along with the lack of supply will cause many hospitals, practices, outpatient clinics, and other organizations to turn to locum tenens professionals to supplement their existing staff in order to avoid long wait times and turning away patients.
Many hospitals, practices, and companies use locum tenens physicians to hold a position until they can find a permanent provider. Others, especially in rural areas, use a steady stream of locum tenens providers to ensure they can provide care to their patients.