Half of Internal Medicine Positions Went Unfilled

Roughly half of all family medicine and internal medicine positions remained unfilled last year, leaving large gaps in primary care access for many communities.

Half of all open internal medicine positions remained unfilled at the end of last year, according to a report from the Association of Staff Physician Recruiters (ASPR).

The 2014 ASPR In-House Physician Recruitment Benchmarking Report found growing shortages for primary care providers based on responses from nearly 5,000 physician and advanced practice provider searches in 2013. According to the data, there was an increase in recruitment activity and investment over the previous year, but unfilled positions grew also.

Searches conducted per organization (145 represented in the survey) increased from 20 in 2012 to 26 in 2013, and annual recruitment budgets increased from a median of $245,000 to $321,000.

“We’re seeing healthcare organizations putting a greater emphasis on physician recruitment as a result of the growing demand for healthcare providers and increasing levels of difficulty in filling open positions,” Suzanne Anderson, associate director of medical staff recruitment at Duke University Medical Center and ASPR benchmarking project leader, said in a statement. “The increase in staffing levels and annual budgets shows that healthcare organizations understand they must invest in their recruitment programs in order to be successful and meet the healthcare needs of their communities.”

Nearly 70% of organizations searched for a family medicine physician last year. Of the 19% of searches for advanced practice providers, 71% of nurse practitioner and half of physician assistant searches were specifically for primary care. In 2012, those figures were just 38% and 43%, respectively.

Of all open positions from 2013, 38% remained unfilled, which is up from 33% in the previous year. More than half (52%) of internal medicine positions and 47% of family medicine positions went unfilled at year’s end, up from 41% and 36%, respectively, in 2012.

“With the impact of the Affordable Care Act, it is no surprise that this year’s report shows a growing need for primary care providers, both physicians as well as advanced practice providers,” Jennifer Metivier, executive director of ASPR, said in a statement. “We anticipate this trend will continue as organizations try to keep pace with the increasing number of patients seeking primary care services.”