The latest issue of KPMG Health Care Insider leads with a story suggesting that there is a shortage of surgeons in many areas, and offers lessons learned for hospitals – and practices – looking to recruit.
“Over the next two decades, more surgical procedures will be performed than ever. At the same time, doctors have invented many new types of procedures, such as bariatric and cardiovascular stent surgery. “Given the expansion in the use of new technology, and increasing numbers of older patients, there just aren’t going to be enough surgeons,” says Dr. Richard Cooper, professor of medicine at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
The article further states:
An Impending Surgeon Shortage Rattles Hospitals
By Richard Merli, Managing Editor, Health Care Insider
Hospitals are stepping up recruiting efforts for surgeons and are paying higher salaries to retain their best surgical talent.
The reasons are straightforward: medical schools aren’t producing enough surgical interns, and older surgeons are retiring. Those interns who do enter surgery are often choosing lucrative specialties that are beyond the financial reach of many patients.
Meanwhile, an aging population is expected to create higher demand for surgical procedures. The end result is that hospitals are slugging it out over skilled labor.
“It has become increasingly difficult for general-surgery programs to attract the best-qualified medical students, and there is cause for concern about the future,” says Dr. Richard Cooper, professor of medicine at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Over the next two decades, more surgical procedures will be performed than ever. At the same time, doctors have invented many new types of procedures, such as bariatric and cardiovascular stent surgery.
“Given the expansion in the use of new technology, and increasing numbers of older patients, there just aren’t going to be enough surgeons,” Cooper says.
The number of general surgeons in the U.S. stands at 24,902, compared to 27,509 in 1998, according to the American Medical Association. By 2020, an aging population could create a huge shortfall in surgeons, according to a University of California at Los Angeles survey. The demand for general surgery, which includes vascular, gastrointestinal and pediatric surgery, will increase 31 percent by 2020.
But the number of surgeons is expected to decline to 11 per 100,000 Americans by 2020, compared with 16 per 100,000 citizens in 1990, according to the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The ACS warns of a “crisis in emergency surgical care.”
Some of the recruitment tactics:
1. Guaranteed income
2. Opportunities for research, both for fee generation and publishing opportunities
3. Lifestyle – many people are more interested in the lifestyle of a small or rural community, in spite of the higher incomes generated in urban areas. It also costs more to live in large urban areas, both in direct costs and the hassle factor.
4.Long term contracts, which offers stability for the surgeon, the hospital and the community
All this, of course, is in the context of the larger shortage of physicians that is being suggested by several observors. Predicting the future demand for physicians is a rudimentary art, at best. While we can predict, with reasonable certainty, the demographic changes for the next 10-20 years, it is the technological changes that widen the pool of patients who can be treated with less invasive procedures, and there are new procedures and treatment regimes being introduced. Surgery is safer, resulting in more patients who are viable candidates for procedures that would have been too risky at not too long ago.
On a practice level, you may find recruitmemt to be more challenging than in the past. Your candidates are not only looking at your practice, they are also looking at the community. Sell them on whatever it is that attracts people to stay there and move there. Where I live, it’s the weather, the “old world” charm, the outdoor activities, and the cultural amenities. There are trade-offs, of course, but many people find it a desirable place to live. It’s not a major metropolitan area, but not everyone wants that. You will also find people who didn’t think that a smaller area would be what they wanted, but once exposed, they could be attracted.
The full article does not appear to be available on the KPMG website – send me an email and I’ll be happy to forward a copy to you.