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An article in the May 2024 issue of Medical Economics magazine claims that “the demand for medical services is increasing and the need for skilled physicians has never been higher….job openings for physicians are proliferating, offering solid prospects for both seasoned practitioners and those just embarking on their medical careers….salaries for physicians are steadily climbing….recruitment is at its peak right now.” That all sounds very rosy!

Primary care, however, is still experiencing a physician shortage that is expected to worsen. “Demand will likely remain high for primary care.” Each year, 3200 family medicine residents enter practice. According to recruiters, there are 3000 open jobs for family physicians leaving 200 doctors to find a practice for themselves. But of course, the demand is greater than the 3000 advertised openings. There are many underserved areas and undermanned practices that suffer in silence. It’s left to the searching doctor to find those opportunities himself. 

As I’ve said many times the “shortage” of physicians in many places is due to a maldistribution of physicians. While suburban areas have a flood of doctors, rural and remote areas have sparse medical coverage. This is a difficult problem for a community to remedy, but many have been able to attract physicians with financial incentives and subsidies. 

According to this article, “the demand for physicians may be at an all-time high and the dollar figures (salaries) being bandied about can be eye popping….but consider all the factors before making a decision about a job.” Don’t be drawn in by signing bonuses, relocation allowances, and medical education allowances. Look carefully at compensation, and whether it is sustainable with the volume of patients seen by your practice every day. It’s most important to “find the right practice that is the best long-term fit….narrow down your options to finding what really matches your personal and professional needs….it’s a buyers market for doctors….there are 100 recruiters trying to get ahold of you when you’re about to finish training.” 

A problem comes when practice revenues do not justify or subsidize the salary paid the physician. A physician employer isn’t going to put up with financial losses for too long. Sound business practices require that revenues exceed expenses so a profit can be made. In medical practice, today, the abysmally low reimbursements coming from Medicare and Medicaid make it difficult to make a profit from their practice. The physician employee needs some guarantee he/she won’t be victimized by this increasingly common situation.

I’m very suspicious of this article because I have personally experienced how declining reimbursement affects a practice and the ability to serve the patients we are committed to serving. Overhead expenses are a given that can be trimmed but only so much. These grand salaries and perks enticing physicians to a practice have to be paid somehow and by somebody, and most employer’s pockets only go so deep. The idea that physicians can expect to be paid X dollars when he’s only generating X minus $50,000, doesn’t sit well with most employers. 

If the article only emphasized job availability, I would be more likely to believe it because jobs abound. Money does not.

Reference: Shryock T., Doctors on the move. Physician Job Market. Medical Economics 2024 May:18-22.

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