The number of solo practices looking for new physicians or advanced practitioners rose last year, one of the largest physician recruiters says.
Physician search firm Merritt Hawkins in its annual review says 4 percent of the 3,120 search assignments conducted by itself and affiliated firms between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015, were for solo practices. This represents a sizable increase from the year before when solo practice assignments made up less than 1 percent of the company’s workload.
Physician-owned medical groups also made strides, making up 20 percent of search assignments, compared with 13 percent the year before, while those from hospitals fell from 64 percent to 51 percent. But the trend is still clearly with employed practice. Merritt Hawkins said 95 percent of its assignments during the review period were for employed positions, compared with less than half in 2004. Assignments from community health centers and academic positions also increased.
Family physicians continued to be the most frequent search assignment for the ninth year in a row, followed closely by internal medicine, psychiatrists, hospitalists, and nurse practitioners. The firm noted that advanced practitioners, a category combining nurse practitioners and physician assistants, would have been fourth on the list, up from fifth last year. Four years ago, neither made Merritt Hawkins’ top 20 assignments, either together or separately.
“Concierge” and other practice models where patients pay their physician directly for care without going through third-party payers, while gathering increasing attention from physicians, remained a tiny piece of the assignment mosaic. The company said it fielded only 25 assignments for concierge practices during the review period, down from 32 in the previous year.
After hitting a five-year high last year, the average base salary for family physician assignments during the study period fell slightly, declining from $199,000 to $198,000.
While policymakers have increasingly discussed the switch of reimbursement from fee-for-service to models based on quality and value, Merritt Hawkins said only 23 percent of its assignments included bonuses tied to quality metrics, down from 24 percent during the previous year. Fifty-seven percent of assignments still relied on relative value units (RVUs) for measuring physician productivity.
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