Demand for many medical specialists remains strong, and group practices and hospitals are focused on recruiting psychiatrists, family physicians, general internists, hospitalists, and pediatricians. However, primary care physicians are in greater demand than any other kind of doctor, a review of physician recruitment shows.
In "2009 Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives," the physician-recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins & Associates notes that in the past year it handled more requests for family physicians than for any other specialty type.
Requests for primary care physicians between April 2008 and March 2009 increased 23% over the previous year, the Irving, Tex.-based company said.
It added that although insurers and government programs are increasing their focus on primary care, fewer physicians in training are choosing to be generalists.
A spokes-woman for the Medical Group Management Association agreed that primary care physicians are in higher demand than other specialties. She added, however, that MGMA's own surveys show that increases in primary care physicians' incomes overall have not been beating inflation.
On the other hand, the review by Merritt Hawkins, which tracks more than 3,200 physician recruiting assignments, found that salaries offered to newly recruited physicians reflect the increased demand.
According to the company, the average salary or income guarantee offered to family physicians jumped 19 percent in the past 3 years, to $173,000; the average offered to general internists rose 15 percent, to $186,000; and the average for pediatricians increased 13 percent, to $171,000.
David Nyman, manager of physician recruitment at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, said in an interview that the disparities between salary figures in the MGMA and Merritt Hawkins reports can be explained by the different groups of physicians involved.
Merritt Hawkins tends to take on the "harder" recruitment assignments and therefore can wind up paying physicians more than the average, he said.
Mr. Nyman added that he's seen an increase in the number of groups willing to help new physicians with their student loans as an incentive to sign on. Groups are well aware that few physicians are going into primary care these days, which is driving increased recruitment of generalists, Nyman said.
"People are adding primary physicians now, anticipating that it's going to be more difficult to find them down the road," he said. …