PCPs are in high demand, but not those who go solo

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A survey that tracks recruiting assignments reveals trends in hiring and compensation for primary care physicians. Find out how these findings could affect your bottom line.

An annual survey by a physician search and consulting firm reveals that primary care physicians, including family physicians and general internists, are in high demand among those who employ doctors. Searches to fill positions in solo practices are decreasing, however.

The 19th annual review of the assignments Merritt Hawkins conducts on behalf of its clients tracked 2,710 physician recruiting efforts it conducted nationwide from April 1, 2011, to March 23, 2012. If existing trends persist, within 2 years more than 75% of newly hired physicians will be employed by hospitals, the company predicts.

The survey shows that search assignments for solo practices dropped to 1%. Last year, that figure was 2%, and 11 years ago it was 22%.

The trend toward hospitals employing physicians continues, with the survey showing that 63% of the company’s recent search assignments included hospital employment for doctors, surpassing last year’s figure of 56% and 11% in 2004).

“To incorporate required technology, comply with regulations, and participate in new delivery models like accountable care organizations, physicians today almost have to be part of larger practices or be employed by hospitals,” James Merritt, founder of Merritt Hawkins, says in a statement.

Family physicians were Merritt Hawkins’ most requested type of doctor for the sixth consecutive year. Internists, hospitalists, psychiatrists, and orthopedic surgeons were next on the list.

As for compensation, salaries are now used as a recruitment tool more frequently than the income guarantees that were once popular, according to the company. This year’s survey shows that income guarantees were used 7% of the time, a decrease from 21% in 2007 and 41% in 2004.

Most of Merritt Hawkins’ clients-73%-offered a salary along with a production bonus, the majority (54%) of which were based on a relative value unit formula. In a growing trend, 35% of the bonuses offered to doctors were based on quality, up from less than 7% last year.