As the economy perks up, it appears that rates of physician turnover rise with it. For the first time since 2008, physician turnover has increased, reminding medical groups of the delicate balance between physician supply and demand.
According to the 6th annual Physician Retention Survey from the American Medical Group Association (AMGA) and Cejka Search, in 2010 total turnover was 6.1 percent compared to 5.9 percent in 2009. This change appears to track with conditions in the economy and housing markets. The trend is consistent with anecdotal reports and findings in the 2008 survey that the worsening economy and plummeting home sales cause physicians to delay retirement and relocation - key drivers of recruitment and activity.
Growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the leveling out of previous, steep declines in home sales may partially explain the uptick in turnover in 2010. Looking ahead, the majority of respondents in the 2010 survey said they believe that retirement will increase (27 percent) or continue at the current rate (65 percent). These indicators could alert medical groups to prepare for greater turnover in 2011 as improvements in the marketplace make it more conducive for physicians to retire or relocate.
"Although shortages still persist in today's physician workforce, we have seen exponential growth in the size of medical groups, many of which are taking the lead in developing new care models that will increase patient access and keep physician satisfaction and retention high," said Donald W. Fisher, Ph.D., CAE, AMGA president and chief executive officer. "Medical groups are actively addressing the needs of physicians throughout their careers, providing mentoring and leadership opportunities, and flexible work options."
"Medical groups can prepare for increased turnover by identifying key demographics in which turnover rates are the highest, and find ways to address the cause of turnover at its source," said Lori Schutte, President, Cejka Search. "In the past five years, we have seen turnover rates consistently trending higher for young, full-time female physicians and pre-retirement male physicians. Offering flexible work options can be effective in retaining a strong physician workforce and investing in the retention of physicians at all stages of their careers will pay long-term dividends for medical groups."
The composition of the respondent group reflects changes in the health care industry, as groups consolidate, more physicians choose employed opportunities and women pursue careers in medicine. The average size of the groups responding to the survey has nearly doubled in the last six years, from an average of 146 physicians to 284 physicians. Female physicians comprised 34 percent of physicians represented in the 2010 survey, compared with 28 percent in 2005.
Other Key Findings
• In the 2010 survey, about half (51 percent) said they do not encourage physicians to delay their retirement, but 49 percent do in some circumstances. Of those who try to keep physicians in practice, they most frequently incent them with flexible hours (90. 6 percent), no call (62.5 percent) and/or reduced call (65.6 percent).