Category Archives: Physician Workforce
Foreign-educated and foreign-born health professionals play a vital role in providing patient care in this country, but strategic shifts such as changes in immigration laws may be needed to stabilize the nation’s health workforce, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
The two groups fill important gaps, particularly among primary care physicians, nurses in hospital settings, and other areas with worker shortages, according to findings published in the November issue of Health Affairs.
However, continuing to rely on foreign-educated and foreign-born health workers may reduce incentives for the nation to address problems such as the inadequate supply of primary care physicians. This, in turn, could lead to a less-stable U.S. health care workforce, researchers said.
The website Physicians Practice has released its annual Physician Compensation Survey, which for the third straight year shows that a majority of U.S. physicians view the income from their medical practice as “disappointing.” In 2013, 54 percent defined their net income this way, the same number as a year earlier, but 5 percent more than those who took the survey in 2011.
Physicians Practice surveyed 1,474 physicians and staff for the survey, asking about personal income, practice overhead, practice outlook, and other financial issues. For the first time, the survey acknowledged the shift from volume-based reimbursement to value-based reimbursement, asking respondents to share how much of their income is tied to factors other than the number of patients they see.
Thirty-three percent of respondents said a portion of their compensation is tied to value (quality and cost of care provided), with 8.5 percent of that group saying this was the only factor in their pay. Furthermore, 24 percent of respondents said a portion of their compensation was tied specifically to patient satisfaction.
However, productivity remained the dominant factor in physician compensation, with 28 percent of survey respondents saying that their entire compensation package was factored on productivity alone. Another 37 percent said it made up a portion of their annual pay.
Rural counties throughout the United States may be hardest hit by the country’s anticipated shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs), according to a new study from the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) Rural Health Research Center at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Researchers point to several factors that have implications for rural counties: PCPs deliver the majority of health care in those areas; a substantial percentage of primary care providers in the United States are approaching retirement age at the same time that fewer new medical school graduates are opting for primary care specialties; and demand for health care services is expected to increase as the population ages and millions gain health insurance coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
The study, which used data from the American Medical Association and the American Osteopathic Association 2005 Physician Masterfiles, found a higher percentage of PCPs near retirement in rural counties than in urban ones, with the percentage increasing as the degree of rurality increased. (Physicians 56 or older in 2005 were considered to be near retirement and were the primary focus of analysis.) The 184 counties in the top 10 percent of near-retirement PCPs were characterized by lower population density and lower socioeconomic status, as measured by low education, low employment, and persistent poverty.
The health care sector has created 166,800 new jobs so far this year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—but that’s down from the 266,400 new jobs created in the first nine months of 2012. The sector created 6,800 jobs this September, compared with 36,600 in September of last year.
Experts note that these numbers have yet to reflect any slowing demand for physicians and other clinicians.
With health reform taking effect, consolidations and other changes in the health care industry, “what you are seeing is simple action-reaction,” Travis Singleton, senior vice president at the health care staffing firm Merritt Hawkins & Associates, told Health Leaders Media. “[A]nytime you have mass change to an industry you are going to get a reaction.” Singleton says that Merritt Hawkins saw a 14 percent increase in its physician and advanced practice recruiting assignments from 2012 to 2013, and he expects recruitment and hiring to continue to increase, especially in nursing.
Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals are increasingly taking on top leadership positions at hospitals, Fierce Healthcare reports, likely because of the changing health care delivery system.
The trend is taking root in several states. In Texas, Baylor All Saints is headed by a former surgeon. The president of Texas Health Harris Methodist Fort Worth is a former intensive care unit nurse, and her immediate superior who oversees operations for 12 regional hospitals is a physician, the Forth-Worth Star-Telegram reports.
Presence Saint Francis Hospital and Presence Saint Joseph Hospital in Illinois announced this month that a physician and board-certified specialist in infectious diseases would take over as president and CEO, according to Fierce Healthcare. Portsmouth Regional Hospital in New Hampshire is run by a registered nurse, Foster's Daily Democrat reports.
Among the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars in top leadership positions at hospitals is RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow Kim Moore, RN, MSN, FACHE, the president of Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
With a primary care provider shortage looming, medical schools are trying a new approach to get physicians into the workforce quickly: condensing medical education from four years to three.
Mercer University (Georgia), Texas Tech University, and New York University offer three-year primary care programs, and will soon be joined by programs in Tennessee, Indiana, University of Wisconsin, East Carolina, and Kentucky, MedPage Today and Fierce Healthcare report.
Most of the schools are shortening or eliminating fourth-year clinical rotations to consolidate their programs, leaving the first three years—which often focus on medical science—untouched.
"We chose to do it on the clinical end rather than [the] basic science end because, as long as Step 1 is [and] as important as it is, our students need to be fully prepared for it,” Betsy Jones, EdD, vice chair of research in Texas Tech's Department of Family Medicine, told MedPage Today. “We didn't make any changes to the curriculum that would threaten our students' ability to do well on [the United States Medical Licensing Examination]. The changes are really at the fourth year level."
A three-year program also saves medical students tuition money, and allows them to earn money in the workforce sooner than in a conventional four-year program, according to Fierce Healthcare.
Although more hospitals and health care systems have been hiring physicians in recent years, more than half of the nation’s physicians are still self-employed. A survey from the American Medical Association finds that 53.2 percent of physicians were self-employed in 2012 and 60 percent worked in practices that were wholly owned by physicians.
The survey also found that only 5.6 percent of physicians were directly employed by a hospital. Twenty-three percent worked in practices that were at least partially owned by a hospital.
Although the researchers conclude hospital employment is part of a national trend, the data “offers an update on the status of physician practice arrangements, and allows for a nationally representative response to the numerous articles of the past several years that have highlighted a surge in the employment of physicians by hospitals and the ‘death’ of private practice.”
The data comes from the 2012 Physician Practice Benchmark Survey, a nationally representative random sample of post-residency physicians who provide at least 20 hours of patient care per week.
There have been some unusual cooks in the kitchen at the Johnson & Wales University culinary institute in Providence, R.I., lately: medical students.
Doctors-in-training from Tulane University have been cooking alongside Johnson & Wales students for several weeks, NPR reports, to learn about nutrition. This unique program, which debuted this year and was organized by Tulane’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, aims to change the way medical students think about food and, ultimately, how they will talk to future patients about nutrition and healthy eating.
Many health problems and diseases—like obesity and diabetes—could be prevented by lifestyle changes such as better eating habits.
"We basically learn how to take care of patients when things go wrong,” Neha Solanki, a fourth-year Tulane medical student, told NPR. “I think that we need to learn how to be able to make nutritious meals and to discuss diet in an educated manner."
In addition to the collaboration with Johnson & Wales, Tulane’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine has built relationships in its own community. Medical students help with an “edible schoolyard” program at local schools, and host hands-on cooking and nutrition education classes for community members at the nation’s first teaching kitchen affiliated with a medical school.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s decision to limit the working hours of medical residents has not increased patient mortality rates, but it has decreased the time residents spend on direct patient care, according to two studies published in the August issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania studied 13.7 million Medicare patients admitted to hospitals between 2000 and 2008. In the first three years after the Accreditation Council enacted an 80-hour work week for residents in 2003, the researchers found no significant changes in patient mortality within 30 days of admission.
“We can reassure the public that patients did not appear to be harmed by the initial duty hour reform of 2003,” senior study author Jeffrey Silber, MD, PhD, told American Medical News. “We have published many papers prior to this looking at other outcomes [including prolonged length of stay following 2003 duty hour reform], and we have found similar results.”
A second change in resident hours came in 2011, when the Accreditation Council limited residents’ maximum shift length to 16 hours, down from 30. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland found that this change contributed to a reduction in the amount of time residents spent on direct patient care. Studies conducted in 1989 and 1993 found an average of 18 to 22 percent of residents’ time was spent on direct patient care; the new study finds residents only spent 12 percent of their time on direct patient care—or about eight minutes per patient, per day—in 2012.
Residents spent most of their time (64 percent) on indirect patient care tasks, such as talking with other health professionals, reviewing charts, and handoffs, the study concluded. Lead author Lauren Block, MD, MPH, told American Medical News that while residents aren’t spending as much time eating and sleeping at hospitals, “that time is not being made up spending time with patients, because they spend that time instead working at their computer stations.”
For years, medical students have been choosing specialties over primary care at a rate that has alarmed experts concerned about a shortage of primary care providers. Two new surveys shed light on the primary care workforce.
Primary care physicians were the most actively recruited professionals within the physician and advanced practitioner recruiting market by the health care staffing firm Merritt Hawkins & Associates from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013. Merritt Hawkins recently released a report summarizing the trends among its 3,097 recruiting assignments in 48 states conducted during that time period. For the seventh consecutive year, family physicians and general internists were the top two most requested physicians, the report says.
The firm also notes a rise in demand for physician assistants and nurse practitioners, as well as an acute shortage of psychiatrists.
In addition to being in high demand, another survey from the Hays Group, a global management consulting firm, finds primary care physicians could see a higher salary increase than specialists in 2014. The growth will be even greater for primary care physicians in hospital-based settings, the report says.