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Physician Shortages Challenge Medical Groups

March 14, 2012

As accountable care evolves and medical homes becomes more prevalent, successful patient outcome delivery is expected to be increasingly dependent on the performance of an effective patient care team.

Forming and maintaining care teams – especially in primary care – will be among healthcare most significant challenges, according to the American Medical Group Association’s (AMGA) and Cejka Search Physician Retention Survey, which for the first time includes staffing and turnover benchmarks for both advanced practitioners and physician staffing.

The turnover rate for both nurse practitioners and physician assistants reported by the survey is 12.6 percent, which nearly doubles the combined, adjusted physician turnover rate* of 6.0 percent. The combination of a projected physician shortage and already high turnover for nurse practitioners and physician assistants places even more pressure on medical groups to use advanced practitioners to fill the gaps in patient care and compensate them appropriately.

More than two-thirds (67%) of respondents from the 2011 survey reported that the involvement of advanced practitioners in their groups has grown “somewhat” or “significantly” in the past five years. This response increases to 75% when looking ahead toward the next five years. The respondents also indicated that they identified 21% and 13% growth in new positions, respectively, for physician assistants and nurse practitioners in their groups in the past twelve months.

Hiring primary care physicians and advanced practice providers is a priority for most of the responding groups. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of the responding groups reported that they would hire more or significantly more primary care physicians in the next 12 months, than they did in the prior year. This was particularly noticeable among groups between 150 and 500 physicians and those in integrated delivery systems. No groups reported that they would reduce their Primary Care staffing. Plans for hiring more specialists were only slightly less aggressive.

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