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A 6 minute read
August 14, 2019

The silver tsunami is crashing down on recruiters and hiring managers in the healthcare market. An aging population coupled with rising rates of chronic illness means increased demand for healthcare providers. Seasoned providers are retiring at a higher rate than new candidates are entering the market, leading to a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians in the U.S. by 2032, according to data published by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).

While these shortages will affect all specialties, recruiting will be particularly difficult when targeting providers in specialties that care for older adults. Family medicine, psychiatry, internal medicine, OB/GYNs, nurse practitioners, and hospitalists are going to feel the greatest consequence of an expanding and aging nation. With fewer providers caring for more patients, the pressure to find and retain top talent will be felt by both the facilities and the staffing agencies.

Let's take a look at the ways physician shortages affect clinician recruiting, and how this might be remedied in the coming years:

1. Physician shortages

With candidate supply low, expect to find fewer candidates on job boards. The average age of physicians as of 2016 was 51 years old, and with 30 percent of providers over 60 years old and retiring, the majority of new hires will be largely Gen X and Millennial candidates. There are many factors that lead to physician shortages, the biggest being the overall millennial candidate market attrition.



With a 27 percent increase in general population and a 72 percent decrease in the number of physicians practicing, staffing agencies and healthcare facilities are going to have a difficult time attracting talent over the next 10 years.

We will see this clinician shortage deepen even further based on both geography and specialty area:

A. Geography hampering clinician recruiting

Clinician shortage issues impact some regions more than others. Patients living in rural areas, for example, face more access issues tied to the clinician shortage than patients living in urban or suburban areas.

Currently, the greatest percentages of the U.S.' senior citizens live in Florida, Maine, and West Virginia. Consider the demographics of your patient population and the demands of the specialties needed to care for them. Will the age of your market call for more geriatric providers or more pediatricians? Using claim analytics to understand the needs of your patient market can drive and direct your marketing and recruiting strategies.

B. Specialty areas: more sought after than ever

In particular, healthcare organizations are concerned about recruitment for specialty clinicians. According to Merritt Hawkins' 2019 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, the percentage of searches for specialty providers increased from 67 percent in 2015 to 78 percent within the past 12 months.

Looking at the market as a whole, only 19 percent of millennials are landing in psychiatric roles and 28 percent in OB/GYN specialties; we may see shortages in these sectors. On the other hand, with 77 percent of millennials taking on nurse practitioner roles and 61 percent choosing hospitalist roles, we can expect to see an increase in physician assistant (PAs) and nurse practitioner (NPs) candidates. In a physician shortage, with fewer providers caring for more patients, these candidates will have increasingly complex procedure and diagnostic experience. Over the next 10 years, these will become the most sought-after candidates. 

Definitive Healthcare Webinar Replay: Staffing and Recruiting in a Physician Shortage

2. Population health management trends

Strangely enough, population health initiatives could actually worsen this anticipated clinician shortage. Population health programs aim to have a positive effect on patient wellness and long-term outcomes (i.e.: reducing body weight, controlling blood pressure, encouraging healthy habits). With these initiatives in place, people will likely live longer, meaning that by 2030 the demand for physicians would actually be higher than expected.

To solve the problem, healthcare providers, policymakers, and health IT developers will have to work very hard over the next decade to develop new strategies that will reduce inefficiencies and costs, while making it easier for physicians to see more patients with less time on their hands.

3. Finding new recruits

Challenges to fill the physician shortage stem from numerous areas: the exorbitant costs and academic rigor of medical school, a scarcity of medical residency slots, physician burnout pushing experienced doctors to early retirement, the mountains of administrative work, cash-strapped organizations that may not be in a position to hire more employees, and much more. Simply put, it can be hard to recruit and retain clinicians.

In addition to ramping up physician recruitment strategies, healthcare organizations can turn to strategies that stretch the physician resources they already have. Organizations should consider focusing on utilizing non-physician clinicians like nurse practitioners and physician assistants by expanding scope of practice and supplementing efforts for physician recruitment and education. They should also put emphasis on better staff scheduling strategy: adding more staff during flu and allergy season and/or strategically scheduling fewer providers during "off-hours" for patients. 

Efficient onboarding also reduces the risk of losing a candidate to another organization. Using all-payor claims, you can export your candidate's case logs to reduce the time and cost of credentialing your providers.

Millennials are tech-savvy, so you will want to consider the tools your facility uses in order to create effective recruiting strategies. Installing technologies such as telehealth systems and EHRs that tie together ancillary systems can help reduce physician cognitive overload and may be appealing to new candidates entering the market.

In a candidate's market, providers will be in high demand, particularly in specialties that serve older adults. So, consider how you position opportunities to your candidates; providers will be seeking quality engagements with opportunity for growth and competitive benefits. It's a good idea to create incentives for new hires like better salaries, performance-based payments, student loan forgiveness, or housing programs.

Learn More

Or, more simply, you can utilize an easy-to-use staffing and recruiting analytics dashboard to assess and understand the clinician staffing market. Definitive Healthcare's all-new, visual staffing dashboard aggregates data from our physician affiliations, physician specialties, contract labor costs, bed utilization, HCAHPS scores, and Medicare claims sources, allowing users to:

  • Identify and contact all candidates licensed in target state and specialty
  • Credential providers quickly using Medicare and commercial procedure case logs
  • Leverage physician graduation years to target candidates and plan for both permanent and locum tenens positions
  • Identify total addressable market by specialty or geography
  • Learn more about resource allocation and churn prevention
  • Segment market by quality and staffing need against contract labor spend
  • Map provider work history by using affiliations data
  • Target ideal providers by procedure experience
  • Evaluate procedure volume by specialty/metro market to determine staffing need
  • Reverse engineer competitor job postings to determine facilities with staffing needs

The Staffing and Recruiting Analytics dashboard unlocks facilities that show signs of understaffed physicians and allows users to differentiate between specialties at individual facilities.


Fig 5: A quick (not fully-comprehensive) look at Definitive Healthcare’s Staffing and Recruiting Analytics dashboard

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