Survey: Family Physicians Top List Of Most Needed

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EDITOR’S NOTE: In the article below, Kelley Dunn, Marketing Director for Merritt Hawkins, one of the nation’s leading physician search and consulting firms, reports on their annual survey that tracks and trends physician recruitment and resource exigencies across the country. The report affirms what has been widely predicted–that with implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka Obamacare), there is an acute demand for more primary care physicians and associated resources to meet the healthcare needs of the millions of new insured Americans.

Although the critical need for more primary care physicians is not as acute in our community, the trend toward supplementing care with “physician extenders,” such as physician assistants and certified nurse practitioners has increased. 

The report also highlights the fairly dramatic shift from independent physician practices to large hospital or healthcare system physician employment, which is consistent with what has transpired over the past three years in Brevard County with Health First, Parrish and Wuesthoff aggressively incorporating both large groups and individual physicians into their systems.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — For the seventh straight year, family physicians top the list of the most highly recruited doctors, according to Merritt Hawkins’ 2013 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives.

This survey, now in its 20th year, tracks incentives offered to physicians in the 3,097 recruiting assignments Merritt Hawkins conducted from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013. For the seventh year in a row, Merritt Hawkins conducted more search assignments for family physicians than for any other type of doctor. Physicians specializing in general internal medicine were second on the list, also for the seventh year in a row.

Availability Of Primary Care Key To PPACA Effectiveness 

Demand for family physicians, general internists and other primary care doctors is being driven in part by a proliferating number of healthcare service sites, including multi-hospital systems, large medical groups, urgent care centers, retail clinics, free-standing emergency departments, academic centers, community health centers, government facilities and traditional community hospitals.

Increased demand for primary care physicians is driven by proliferating healthcare services sites, and newly insured people coming into the market under Obamacare.

Healthcare facilities in Florida and nationwide also are gearing up to meet the enhanced demand for primary care physicians that will begin in 2014 when millions of people obtain health insurance through the patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka Obamacare). Demand for primary care physicians is further driven by their perceived role as the “quarterbacks” of the healthcare team who are responsible for enhancing quality and reducing costs, two hallmarks of healthcare delivery in the post-reform era.

Merritt Hawkins’ 2013 survey also indicates that health facilities are seeking more physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) to supplement the services of difficult to recruit primary care physicians. For the first time in the 20 years Merritt Hawkins has conducted the survey, PAs and NPs made its list of the top 20 most recruited specialties. Also making the list for the first time were physicians specializing in geriatrics who will be needed to care for the nation’s rapidly aging population.

Hospital Employment of Physicians

Health First added MIMA to their existing employed physician group making the HF Physician Group one of the largest in the state.
Health First added MIMA to their existing employed physician group making the Health First Physician Group one of the largest in the state.

The 2013 survey confirms the trend toward hospital employment of physicians. In 2004, only 11% of Merritt Hawkins’ search assignments featured hospital employment of physicians. In 2013, that number grew to 64%.

Other sites of service for which Merritt Hawkins recruits, including large medical groups, academic centers, and community health centers, also typically employ physicians, leaving very few settings for truly independent doctors, according to Smith.

Quality Based Incentives

The 2013 survey suggests that physician compensation models are changing. In 2011, fewer than seven percent of Merritt Hawkins’ recruiting assignments that offered physicians a production bonus included payments based on quality of care metrics. In the 2013 survey, that number increased to 39%, underscoring a rapid shift away from rewarding physicians for the volume of services they provide and toward rewarding them for the value of services they provide.


Kelley Dunn
Kelley Dunn

Kelley Dunn is Senior Director with Merritt Hawkins, the leading physician search and consulting firm in the United States and a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AHS). She earned a double major in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Georgia, a Masters degree from Florida Atlantic University, and is currently a faculty instructor with the University of Florida. With over 8 years of healthcare staffing experience, Kelley has consulted with over 2,000 clinics and hospitals in Florida.