How to Close the Physician Age Gap

Anna Webster, for HealthLeaders Media, February 4, 2011

Managing multiple generations of physicians at your practice is no easy task. Many older physicians already have retirement in their sights and some are resistant to adopting new technologies or changing the way they have practiced medicine for years. At the same time, many younger physicians are looking for tech-savvy practices and demanding a schedule that offers more work-life balance, which often means a specialty practice, not primary care. Here are strategies that you can use to manage the differing priorities of physicians, while fostering better collaboration.

Appealing to younger physicians

More and more physicians fresh out of medical school are choosing a specialty, such as cardiology or radiology, rather than primary care, because the compensation is better and often there is a narrower range of health issues that they will need to address.

For example, the average salary for radiologists for 2009-2010 was $417,000 compared to the average family practice salary of $175,000, according to a 2010 Merritt Hawkins survey. There is also a preconceived notion that the primary care field has limited flexibility in scheduling and laborious hours. So it is no surprise that younger physicians looking for a better work-life balance are turning to specialty practices that are more likely to have set office hours.

There are steps, however, that practices can take—primary care included—that will not only appeal to younger physicians, but to some older doctors, as well. Walt West, founder of the Brentwood, TN-based consultancy, Practice Management Academy, suggests adopting the following:

  • Advanced technology. Young physicians often train in facilities with the latest and greatest technologies and they seek out practices using the types of technologies they’ve trained on, such as electronic health record systems (EHR), says West. “If practices don’t have that, they won’t be attractive.”


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