Fighting Physician Shortage Through the Workspace

The physician shortage is likely to get worse before it gets better, but there are best practices facilities can do to recruit and retain top talent, according to Kurt Mosley, VP of Strategic Alliances at Merritt Hawkins, who spoke at the North Texas Hospital, Outpatient Facilities, and Medical Office Buildings Summit.

Over half of all doctors today are older 56, according to the American Medical Association. In Texas, more than 27 percent of physicians are over 60, while over a third of doctors in New Mexico are 60 or older. Meanwhile, the population is growing, and will have added 50 million people between 2000 and 2020.

The population is getting older as well. By 2030, the entire country will be as old demographically as Florida. Residents over 65 years old make up 14 percent of the population, but 34 percent of inpatient procedures and 37 percent of diagnostic tests. Meanwhile, life expectancy is decreasing in the US, as obesity rates, social determinants of health, and other factors take their toll. By 2030, the country will be 120,000 physicians short.

With the need for physicians only increasing, the burnout rates further complicate the country’s ability to care for its population. Mosley data says the 62 percent of physicians are pessimistic about the future, and 49 percent would not suggest medicine as a career, which has been consistent since 2016. Nearly two-thirds say patient care is impacted by external factors, and physician turnover is around 12 percent each year as doctors look for something different.

Caring for physicians and retaining them isn’t just good for the health of population, it is essential to the bottom line as well. Physicians generate around $2.3 million annually for a practice, and account for the employment of dozens of other people.

While providers often spare no expense when building the facility and new equipment, aesthetics are inconsequential if the clinic doesn’t function well. “If it looks like the Taj Mahal, but works like the DMV,” the clinic is in trouble, Mosley says.

Some of the keys to making the workplace attractive to physicians are an efficient layout, convenient location, clear electronic health record, and scribes to reduce time spent with data entry. Flexible schedules, gain sharing, test turnaround times, health records that can be easily accessed by patients, and even parking make a difference for recruiting and retaining physicians.

Other factors are the ability to use telehealth, behavioral health support, and quality nursing. If the nurse is able to effectively triage a patient so that the doctor knows what they are dealing with, it can go a long way toward efficiency.

Pre-approval with insurance companies is another time-eater for physicians, and having well-equipped care coordinators who can navigate the pre-approval system can also save time for physicians and improve their work life.

“Doctor saves lives,” Mosley says. “And lives save doctors.”