Coronavirus: Physician compensation, job options falling

July 17, 2020

Recruiters are saying that the market for doctors has softened.

Physicians are seeing a temporary reduction in both starting salaries and practice options due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to an annual report on physician recruitment trends.

The report was prepared by physician search firm Merritt Hawkins and tracks a sample of 3,251 physician and advanced practitioner recruiting engagements between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020. It found that the previously robust physician job market has softened since COVID-19 began spreading, according to a news release.

“Over our 33-year history, most physicians had little difficulty finding a job opportunity, with multiple offers to choose from,” Travis Singleton, executive vice president with Merritt Hawkins/AMN Healthcare, says in the release. “Today, we are seeing a growing number who are unemployed with a limited number of roles available. This is unprecedented. COVID-19 essentially flipped the physician job market in a matter of 60 days.”

The release says that the firm saw an increase in physician search engagements over that 12-month period but demand for physicians dropped by 30 percent since March 31. Meanwhile, the number of physicians reaching out to Merritt Hawkins for job opportunities has increased creating an opportune market for those seeking to hire doctors.

“Conditions for those hospitals and medical groups that continue to recruit physicians are about as favorable as we have ever seen,” Singleton says.

The report ties this development in the physician job market to the devastating economic impact which the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has had on the healthcare industry citing the American Hospital Association’s report that hospitals and health systems have lost $200 billion in the first quarter of 2020.

This decrease in physician demand is likely to be temporary, as the report says the various dynamics driving supply and demand for doctors remain and COVID-19 is unlikely to permanently change the growing and aging population, limited supply of newly trained physicians, and the aging physician workforce.

Demand for physicians is expected to rebound before the end of 2020, the release says.

“While the pandemic will change how healthcare is delivered, physicians will remain indispensable caregivers, and we anticipate a renewed demand for both their clinical services and their leadership in the post-pandemic world,” says Singleton.

The report also projects that physician starting salaries are likely to decrease temporarily due to the pandemic, though it is difficult to predict how much. The way physicians are compensated is also likely to change, as bonuses could increasingly be tied to their use of telehealth and with more reimbursement based on monthly payments rather than on average daily patient or work volumes.