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A 6 minute read
June 7, 2019

The United States will see a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032, according to data published by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). 

There are a few reasons behind the recent healthcare staffing shortage:

  • Retiring workforce: Approximately 55 percent of all registered nurses are 50 years old or older, and 52 percent of the active physician workforce is 55 or older, en route to retirement.
  • Shifting patient demographics: Along this same thread, an aging baby boomer population (currently the largest living generation in the U.S.) now requires more care, and physicians, than ever. 
  • Growing number of outpatient facilities: The number of outpatient facilities (like urgent care centers, retail clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, and community health centers) continues to grow, now sharing the healthcare landscape with hospitals and large medical groups.

With a growing outpatient market and an aging population, it is harder than ever to find the right medical talent. Is physician staffing top-of-mind for your organization? Whether you're a staffing firm looking to recruit top physicians or a provider looking to retain your staff, there are a few important things to consider when it comes to understanding the physician staffing market:

1. Understand physician affiliations and locations

The first step toward effectively recruiting physicians is to research the key players: the physicians. Which hospitals are they affiliated with? Where are their practice locations? Do they travel between multiple states as a locum tenens provider? Find resources that allow you to track data on physicians. For instance, Definitive Healthcare tracks 1.6 million U.S. physicians and can help you understand the movement and overall trends of physicians in the market:


Fig 1: Definitive Healthcare U.S. physician data trend analysis, May 2019

Based on these results, it's clear that most U.S. physicians (48.9%) are affiliated with more than one hospital, but not as many practice across state lines (1.9%). Interestingly, more than 20% of physicians dabble in more than one specialty area. Understanding the movement of physicians, and the affiliations they have with hospitals and health systems, can help inform your staffing recruitment strategy.

2. Analyze contract labor costs and bed utilization rates to identify staffing needs

Contract labor expenses and bed utilization rates can both be used to understand hospital staffing

Contracted staffing is an obvious solution to temporary shortages in the workforce. Many health care facilities, both inpatient and outpatient, have started to rely heavily on temporary "contract labor" to supplement their full-time employed staff. Contract labor costs can reveal a hospital's likelihood to outsource labor as a means to staff their facilities.

Facilities with abnormally high bed utilization rates are likely very busy and run the risk of increased physician burnout and turnover. If a facility has a below-average bed utilization rate, the facility could benefit from hiring additional clinicians to treat more patients in a shorter amount of time, potentially drawing in more patients and improving bed utilization. 

physician-contract-labor-bed-utilizationFig 2: Staffing statistics, contract labor costs and bed utilization, by U.S. geographic region, Definitive Healthcare, May 2019

In this graphic, we get a glimpse at how these metrics differ at a regional level. The West has the highest contract labor costs, which means this region may be more likely to turn to staffing firms for contract workers. Hospitals in the Northeast have an average bed utilization rate of 60%, which may indicate higher rates of physician burnout and turnover.

3. Identify which physicians are the most overworked

There are a wide variety of types of physician specialties, like cardiologists, oncologists, and psychiatrists. Of all the types of physician specialties, do you know which ones are the most overworked?

Definitive Healthcare, the leading provider of data, intelligence, and analytics on the healthcare provider market, recently identified the top 5 highest physician workloads (by specialty) in both inpatient and outpatient settings across the U.S. by calculating the number of claims that are submitted for a specialty area divided by the total number of physicians in each specialty. Based on these calculations, here are the results:

Highest Physician Workload by Specialty: Inpatient

Specialty Submitted claims by specialty/number of physicians in specialty
1. Hospitalist 93.3
2. Physical Medicine & Rehab 91.0
3. Internal Medicine 69.8
4. Psychiatry - Geriatric Psychiatry 51.2
5. Addiction Medicine 49.6
Fig 3: Highest inpatient physician workload by specialty, Definitive Healthcare, May 2019

Hospitalists are dedicated inpatient physicians who work exclusively in a hospital, so it's no wonder this specialty took the top slot for "most overworked." Hospitals see very high volumes of patients and, coupled with the the overnight shifts and intense emergency care, it can be hard to staff for this specialty area. 

Highest Physician Workload by Specialty: Outpatient

Specialty Submitted claims by specialty/number of physicians in specialty
1. Oncology - Hematology/Oncology 549.8
2. Oncology - Medical Oncology 482.5
3. Hematology 457.6
4. Cardiology - Cardiac Electrophysiology 398.2
5. Cardiology - Interventional Cardiology 342.9
Fig 4: Highest outpatient physician workload by specialty, Definitive Healthcare, May 2019

When calculating the average number of claims by a physician specialty, we begin to see potential opportunities for providing relief for overworked staff, such as in hematology, oncology, and cardiology.

Learn More

Definitive Healthcare's all-new Staffing and Recruiting Analytics dashboard, located within the DHC Visuals platform, is a tool to assess and understand the physician staffing market. This dashboard aggregates data from our physician affiliations, physician specialties, contract labor costs, bed utilization, HCAHPS scores, and Medicare claims sources, allowing for targeted searches with numerous metrics, like:

  • Physicians
  • Contract labor
  • Medicare claims
  • Bed utilization
  • Predicted locum tenens
  • Physician and facility workload

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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