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Bleak Physician Recruitment News for Smaller Markets, Independent Practices

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 12, 2010

Third, even though recruiting is down, the overall demand for primary care physicians remains strong. Family practice, internists, and hospitalists were among the top five most sought-after specialties.

Family practice and internal medicine are going to continue to rise "as the geriatric patient base demands it, with our chronic and high-risk patients that we are dumping on the system," Singleton says. "Hospitalists have been our Steady Eddie and that will remain the same because it's become an accepted practice of both quality and expense savings."

Interestingly—and tellingly—psychiatrists and emergency physicians were among the top five medical specialties sought in 2009-10.

"The economy is down and you can tie emotional and mental health with economic times," Singleton says. "Certainly, when it is combined with people's jobs, it has been the most undiagnosed and unclear of all modalities out there."

Singleton says the rising demand for psychiatrists also may reflect the growing understanding in the healthcare community that mental health is underserved and the push for mental healthcare parity. "There has been such a need for psychiatry for so long. These patients have been shuffled through the primary care system, and to be quite frank, that isn't the best way to diagnose and treat these patients," he says. "As that has been getting more publicity over the last two or three years, you are seeing the need go up."

Unfortunately, psychiatrists represent the oldest demographic among healthcare specialists, and not enough younger physicians are coming into the field. "Those who want to come into the field only want to do outpatient, and the need right now is inpatient," Singleton says.

Fourth, despite the demand, primary care compensation remains the lowest among medical specialties. Family physicians' compensation averaged $175,000. Orthopedic surgeons were tops, averaging $519,000.

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