Primary care physicians are the backbone of the American healthcare system. The National Institutes of Health have reported that states with a higher ratio of primary care physicians to population have better health and lower mortality rates among patients who regularly see a primary care physician. Additionally, because of the role primary care plays in preventative care, patients who have a primary care physician generally pay fewer healthcare costs.
However, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on primary care visits. "The pandemic has been associated with a more than 25% decrease in primary care volume, which has been offset in part by increases in the delivery of telemedicine, which accounted for 35.3% of patient encounters during the second quarter of 2020" (per a report from JAMA).
Financial pressures are having an impact on primary care physicians and their practices, too. While most physicians say autonomy is still a priority, many indicated they would consider a partnership or joining a health system due to the financial uncertainty resulting from COVID-19 (per McKinsey & Company). The annual salary for family medicine physicians is among the lowest-paying specialties already. The average in 2020 came in at $261,536 this year (per Doximity’s 2020 Physician Compensation Report), a slight uptick from $242,352 last year.
Despite the growing need for primary care physicians, U.S. medical school graduates are still less likely to specialize in primary care. The 2019 Match report showed that just 42% of over 8,000 internal medical positions offered were filled by seniors pursuing medical degrees from U.S. medical schools. Plus, there’s the looming (and growing) physician shortage, which the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts will reach 139,000 physicians by 2033.
Most physicians believe the pandemic will have long-lasting effects within the communities they serve. In a recent survey, 59% of physicians cited that COVID-19 will likely reduce the number of independent physician practices in their communities, while 8% of physicians have already closed their practices due to COVID-19 (a total of approximately 16,000 practices). Also, 43% of physicians have reduced staff due to the pandemic (per the Physicians Foundation).
Despite all of this, the demand for primary care physicians remains high. As a physician recruiter, how can you differentiate yourself while you’re recruiting valuable primary care candidates? Here are a few tips:
- Offer incentives. Sometimes the right incentives are the real selling points. If you have incentives like education loan repayment programs, CME allowances, health benefits, or a relocation bonus, it’s time to sell that! A signing bonus is a big plus, too.
- Make every virtual experience stand out. We’re in an era of virtual everything, so focus on ways to ensure your candidates’ experiences are memorable, from the virtual interview to the virtual on-site and beyond. You’ll find some great tips here.
- Don’t reach out to a candidate if you haven’t done your research. If you don’t have a firm understanding of what a candidate’s interests are and how they’ll contribute to an organization, it could be a waste of your time. It could also come across as annoying or even insulting to them.
- Sell the state, city, community, and culture. There are plenty of good places to live, and often the right location is more important than a higher salary. Physicians tend to accept jobs that “feel right,” so recruiters should know the market demographics, understand the local cost of living, and sell everything from local schools (for candidates with children) to recreational and cultural activities, to job prospects for partners and spouses.
- Ask other physicians to give you or your facility a great review. People you already know are one of the best sources for finding new physicians. Their experience with you or your facility is a great way to judge a candidate’s suitability, plus they’re a good reflection of your culture.
There’s a “new normal” ahead for all of us, and the opportunities to make a difference in primary care are endless. What are you doing to recruit these candidates? We have a holiday recruitment and 2021 prep checklist we encourage you to check out!