Maybe hospital executives have too much on their plates already. There may be too many pressing issues to contemplate – such as understanding the impact of the dizzyingly complicated healthcare reforms, installing electronic medical records, or even keeping the doors open and the lights on.
Whatever the reason, the 2011 HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey found that over the past year, recruiting and retaining physicians dropped from the No. 2 “top priority” to No. 7. Did something happen in the last 12 months that relieved the nation’s chronic physician shortage? Did the U.S. demographic get younger, slimmer, more physically fit?
Well, no; the need for physicians is as strong as ever, but the need to focus on recruitment and retention has softened somewhat. The top priorities that ranked above physician recruiting and retention in 2011 are, in order, cost reduction, quality/patient safety, reimbursement, patient experience/patient satisfaction, developing an accountable care organization, and care coordination.
Despite the shifting priorities, hospital leaders do not appear to be in denial about the physician shortage. Only 29% are positive about the supply of primary and specialty care physicians over the next three years, while about 40% see supply as having a negative impact. And yet, 67% of hospital leaders rank their current physician staff as “strong” or “very strong,” which is down from 78% last year. Meanwhile, 9% of leaders describe their physician staff as “weak” or “very weak,” not much better than last year’s 10%.
So leaders need to decide as they walk past every 10th physician, should physician recruitment—with an eye on quality—be a higher priority?