It comes as no surprise that primary care doctors are, and have always been, highest in demand. All hospitals and health systems require family physicians, as well as other internists, to service their patients. However, recent data shows that this paradigm is shifting.
To fill the necessary vacancies in medical staff, an increasing number of health systems are looking to Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants. According to the Merrit Hawkins’ review, neither of these positions had been among the top 20 in-demand health professionals in 2011. While primary care doctors still rank the highest, NP’s and PA’s have progressed over the past 4 years to be placed among the top 10. Both professional areas have grown to fill critical positions in the healthcare industry.
When it comes to what a hospital or health system needs to fill the vacancies in a medical staff, primary care doctors like family physicians and internists have long been the top need.
But climbing the ranks and jumping past many doctor specialties on the demand scale aren’t physicians at all. They’re nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are filling a critical role for the health care industry, according to national doctor recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins.
The snapshot into the U.S. health care workforce from Merritt Hawkins, a subsidiary of AMN Healthcare (AHS) comes as trends in insurance payment from private health plans, employers and the government under the Affordable Care Act emphasize keeping people well. The value-based care push away from fee-for-service medicine also emphasizes the outpatient care provided by nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) working with primary care doctors.
“In the team-based, population health model, primary care physicians remain recruiting target number one, but PAs and NPs are target 1A,” Travis Singleton, senior vice president at Merritt Hawkins said in a statement to Forbes. “You really can’t build patient access or patient satisfaction without them.”
To be sure, patient satisfaction and quality of care are being built into contracts insurers have with medical care providers as health plans like Aetna AET -0.78% (AET), Anthem (ANTM), UnitedHealth Group UNH -0.67% (UNH) and the nation’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans consolidate into larger payers and shift payments to value-based care.
For the ninth consecutive year, the family doctor was the most highly recruited doctor. Internists were second on the Merritt list followed by psychiatrists amid a nationwide shortage of behavioral health specialists.
“Combined, physician assistants and nurse practitioners were fourth on the list,” Merritt Hawkins said in its report. “Four years ago, neither NPs or PAs were among (the firm’s) top 20 assignments either collectively or individually.”
On their own, nurse practitioners ranked fifth behind hospitalists who were fourth and physician assistants were in 10th place, tied on the “in demand” scale with general surgeons. Advanced practitioners are more in demand than several specialties including general surgery, cardiology, urology and neurology.
Merritt Hawkins’ review comes from a database of more than 3,100 recruiting assignments conducted by the firm from April of last year through March of this year.