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How Healthcare Facilities Can Fight the Looming Physician Shortage
How Healthcare Facilities Can Fight the Looming Physician Shortage
From now until 2025, total physician demand is expected to grow by 17 percent. When 2025 arrives, the America’s physician shortage will certainly be a more serious issue than it is now.
So how big will the shortage be?
Some estimates say more than 90,000 doctors if nothing is done. If steps are taken to mitigate the issue, the United States will still be short about 50,000 physicians.
Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities must prepare now. Here’s how administrators can ensure the looming physician shortage doesn’t negatively affect them:
1. Plan Ahead and Anticipate Shortage Cycles
It’s vital that you assess your organization’s current situation and understand where there may be needs in the coming years. This way, you can strategize and prevent adverse industry conditions from affecting your healthcare facility.
For instance, perhaps a few of your physicians at your facility are planning to retire. It’s a common occurrence at hospitals these days, considering nearly one-third of licensed physicians are at least 60 years old, according to research from the Federation of State Medical Boards. To deal with such an issue, consider tweaking the hiring process, offering more attractive compensation packages and improving your organizational branding. You can also increase support for medical residency training (there is actually a bill asking for more federal support for this, too).
Another thing you need to do is anticipate shortage cycles across different specialties. This can be difficult as each specialty gains (and loses) a varying amount of physicians each year. Stay updated on these trends.
For example, the population in the United States is aging quickly, with around 50 million people over the age of 65 (as of a 2016 study). It’s reasonable to expect a shortage of physicians specializing in geriatrics. Healthcare facilities who offer medical services to the elderly must plan accordingly.
2. Design Attractive Compensation Packages
When there is a high demand for physicians but a low supply, you’re going to have to compete with other medical organizations. Offering better overall compensation packages is how you stand out.
The first thing administrators should realize is that, although offering a good salary is an absolute must, great pay alone won’t retain doctors. After all, physician burnout is real, with many specialties reporting burnout rates of over 50 percent. Having doctors that are emotionally and physically exhausted leads to worse outcomes for patients and higher physician turnover.
With that said, here are some factors to consider beyond wages:
- Work-life balance: To show physicians that you want them to live happy lives, highlight the community amenities around your facility, which could include schools, parks, shopping and dining. Tailor how you pitch this based on each candidate’s interests. Also, make it clear that you respect their time by offering things like call pay, a four-day work week, and flexible vacation scheduling, and stress that you don’t overwork doctors.
- Organizational culture: There are many ways to show your hospital or clinic is a great place to work. If you respect quality work with bonuses and other incentives, hold organizational activities and have the latest equipment, you’ll make a good impression.
- Career advancement: Many physicians will be attracted to your healthcare facility if you offer them the chance to become a partner down the line. Offering a continuing medical education allowance and holding learning programs are other ways you prove you’re committed to growth and development.
Student loan relief is also important, considering the amount of debt most doctors graduate with (the average medical school debt currently exceeds $166,000).
3. Hire Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants to Help With Workload
Consider this: A recent survey found that it takes 22 days on average to see a dermatologist. That’s not good for patients.
Across most specialties, one of the best ways to provide prompt healthcare services to patients is to have them see nurse practitioners (NPs) or physician assistants (PAs) first. Many folks would rather see a professional immediately than wait for a physician.
This isn’t to say that NPs and PAs can replace doctors. They can’t. But they can make a wonderful addition to any practice that experiences heavy workloads, emergencies and off-peak appointments.
So if your doctors are overwhelmed, think about hiring advanced practice providers (APPs). To decrease liability risk and ensure high-quality care, physicians should supervise APPs carefully and establish boundaries on their authority.
4. Ensure Candidates Are a Cultural Fit
Outside of burnout and inflexible work hours, “lack of a cultural fit” is another major reason why doctors quit. As Katie Bouton, a leader in the HR sector, states, “culture fit is the glue that holds an organization together.”
This necessitates that HR teams at hospitals incorporate the organization’s culture into recruiting. Align your hospital’s values and goals with the hiring process to ensure you attract people who will mesh well.
So how do you do that?
During the hiring process, ask the candidate questions about their ideal work environment, career aspirations, what they want from a healthcare facility, etc. This will allow you to filter out bad candidates.
Additionally, utilize technology. Social media and blogging can promote your organization’s culture. When you list positions on job boards, highlight your healthcare facility’s values in the description.
You could also partner with recruiting firms to find candidates that are a good match. For instance, at Adaptive Medical Partners, we use AMP Score™, a proprietary tool to help hospitals optimize their physician recruitment strategy, along with human interactions, to determine if doctors would do well at your hospital.
Having Success Despite the Looming Physician Shortage
With smart strategizing, well-rounded compensation packages and the right hiring process, your healthcare facility can thrive over the next decade and beyond. You can attract many great physicians — despite the shortage. Partnering with recruiting firms now is another step you can take to guarantee you find high-quality physicians when needed. In the end, resourcefulness and planning ahead will get your organization to where it needs to be.