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New Report Shows Employers Offering High Incentives in Physician Recruitment

12 May, 2023 F.J. Thomas

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Sarasota, FL ( – Analysts have been raising the alarm on projected physician shortages and the access to care issues that shortages could potentially create. In an effort to address physician shortages, employers are using incentive bonuses as a way to recruit new talent and retain the physicians already on staff. 

While incentive bonuses have been the top recruiting tactic for shortage areas across the nation, a recent study suggests that for rural areas where the shortage is greatest and long standing, financial incentives may not be enough. Physicians that choose to work in a rural location do so for reasons other than financial benefit. It seems the driving factor to choose a rural practice is that physicians desire to return to their rural roots, along with the opportunity to have a more diverse practice and a chance at autonomy. 

Data from hiring surveys has shown a direct correlation between shortage areas and higher salaries and bonuses. According to a recent compensation report from Physicians Thrive, rural areas have continued paying some of the highest salaries in the nation to attract clinical workers. The Midwestern and Southern states, along with rural areas are dealing with larger aging populations paired with the greatest shortages of trained providers. In fact, it is estimated that the number of people over the age of 65 is expected to grow by 42 percent within the next ten years. Given the change in demographics paired with the new CMS changes such as the Rural Emergency Hospital designation, which limits the services that rural hospitals have to offer, it will be interesting to see how this recruitment strategy plays out. 

According to the Physicians Thrive report, an unprecedented number of physicians are being offered incentive bonuses in recruitment with hospitals leading the drive for new talent. In all regions, hospital recruitment was up 34 percent last year, and up from 33 percent in 2021. Recruitment for medical groups increased 18 percent last year, but was down 29 percent in 2021. Recruitment for academic medical centers was up 34 percent in 2022, an increase from 20 percent the year before. Physician solo practices saw very little recruitment last year at only 1 percent, down from 3 percent in 2021.

By region, depending on specialty, physicians in the West and Midwest earned the highest salaries overall. However, some of the top ten states with the highest average salary for physicians includes Kentucky and Tennessee at $364k, followed by Alabama at $358k, and Missouri at $357k. Texas ranked ninth at $332k, followed by Florida at $330k. Charlotte ranked number one for highest paying salary at $462,760k, followed by St. Louis at $452,219k, and Buffalo at $426,440k. Baltimore ranked first metro area for low physician salaries at $330,917k, followed by Providence at $346,092, and San Antonio at $355,439k. San Antonio also ranked lowest for female physician salary at $287,268k.The analysts noted that those cities with the lowest paying salaries also tend to have older healthcare infrastructures and declining populations.

Overall, some of the specialties seeing the highest salary increases includes OB/GYN at 14 percent increase, followed by Radiology at 12 percent, Anesthesiology and Cardiology at 8 percent each, and Neurology at 7 percent increase. While general Cardiology saw an increase, Interventional Cardiology saw a decrease of 16 percent. Dermatology and Pediatrics saw a 3 percent decrease each, followed by Nonsurgical specialists and Surgical physicians at a 1 percent decrease. 

Plastic surgeons, cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons all retained the highest earning spots with salaries over $500k. Orthopedic Surgery garnered the top spot for highest median salary at $546k and earned top spot for largest incentive bonuses at $126k.  Public Health and Preventative Medicine ranked lowest at $183k average annual salary.

In specialty ranking by location, orthopedic surgery in a hospital hospital department practice ranked highest paying at $675k annually. In the same setting Cardiology ranked second at $626k, followed by Urology at $506k.

What is interesting is that while Public Health and Preventative Medicine ranked lowest for average salary, the specialty had the largest amount of physicians that felt their compensation was fair at 72 percent. Plastic Surgery specialists came in third at 66 percent. Neither Orthopedics nor Cardiology were mentioned in the fair compensation opinion ranking.  

While the salary and bonuses may have increased, new hire physicians are seeing slightly fewer benefits offered to them. For instance, continuing medical education (CME) assistance for education and relicensing dropped from 94 percent for new hires in 2021 to 92 percent in 2022. Other benefits such as health insurance, malpractice, retirement, disability, and educational forgiveness dropped as well. Health insurance for new hires dropped to 68 percent in 2022 from 78 percent in 2021. Malpractice also dropped, going from 76 percent in 2021 to 66 percent in 2022. Retirement also saw the same decrease, at 61 percent for 2022 new hires, down from 68 percent in 2021. Disability was only offered to 61 percent of new physicians in 2022, down from 70 percent in 2021. In 2021, 21 percent of new hires were given educational forgiveness, but in 2022 only 16 percent were offered the same benefit. 

According to the report, physicians are working an average of 50 hours per week, which is compatible to pre-COVID. Around  25 percent work between 50 to 59 hours, and 30 percent work more than 60 hours per week. An average of 15.48 hours a week is spent on paperwork and administrative duties. Infectious disease specialists spend a little more time on administrative duties at 19.8 hours per week. 

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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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