On the Move: Physician Relocation and Recruitment Trends

Renewed emphasis on quality of life, financial stability and the constant changes in healthcare are motivating more physicians to relocate.  In a survey commissioned by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), the reasons that influenced the physician respondents’ relocation efforts were explored. The survey found the top reason for relocation to be financial issues such as income potential and loan repayment programs at 57%. The second included dissatisfaction with the quality of practice at 52%. The third most popular reason was significant changes in quality of life at 42%. It is also noteworthy that the respondents cited work-life balance as the underlying reason for their relocation efforts. Work-life balance factors included community size, call coverage, family ties and geographic preferences.

The relocation of physicians is mirrored by difficulties in recruitment efforts. For instance, the Illinois Hospital Association and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine reported that in 2010, almost 50% of residents and fellows trained in the state left after graduation. The residents and fellows’ top reasons for leaving included returning to their home state or moving closer to family and friends. Other reasons for graduate relocation included the high cost of malpractice insurance, workload, and relatively lower compensation rates compared to nearby states such as Wisconsin and Indiana. They also voiced concerns regarding the funding structure of Illinois’ Medicaid program.

Similar results to the Illinois survey were found in a study conducted by the Center for Health Information and Research, and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. This survey listed family ties and better reimbursements as the main reasons for physicians leaving the state. They also highlighted relocation factors including the quality of community schools and career or educational opportunities for their spouses. In-state Arizona physicians were more likely to relocate to communities with an urban lifestyle. Physicians outside of Arizona, especially surgeons, described medical insurance as an important factor for relocating to other communities.

“Understanding why physicians relocate provides valuable insight for many healthcare organizations’ recruiting efforts,” said Tom Broxterman, Executive VP of PhysicianCareer.com. “With the economic downturn and uncertainties in the industry, healthcare groups need to have a creative and competitive recruitment strategy in place to attract quality candidates. This is most important if they are recruiting out-of-state talent or if the facility is located in a rural community.”

Other ways to attract and retain physicians, especially the younger generation, include having a strong practice environment and offering academic opportunities. A recent survey conducted by the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Health Policy and Health Systems Department reported that physicians remained in certain areas due to family ties and ‘vibrancy of the academic and medical environment.’ The study also found physicians who relocated took teaching positions in other communities.

Healthcare systems must stay informed about trends in physician relocation. If these systems are able to understand what motivates physicians to relocate, they can come up with successful recruitment plans.

Works Cited:

American Medical Group Assn. Ericksson Physician Search 2012 Annual Survey. Ericksson Physician Search, 30 July 2012. Web.

Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Assn., Center for Health Information & Research. Arizona Physician Trends: Reasons for Leaving Arizona. Issue brief. N.p.: n.p., 2008. Print.

Glenn, Brandon. “Primary Care Physicians Relocate at Lower Rates than Specialists.” Medical Economics, 24 Oct. 2012. Web.

Hyden, Madeline. “Data Benchmarking: Are You following These Four Rules?” Data Benchmarking: Are You following These Four Rules? Medical Group Management Association, 01 Feb. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2013.

Hyden, Madeline. “Three ‘must-haves’ in Most Physician Offer Packages.” Medical Group Management Assn., 22 June 2012. Web.

Northwestern Univ. Feinberg School of Medicine, Illinois Hospital Assn. “Illinois New Physician Workforce Study: Final Report.” (2010): 15-16. Print.

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