Preparing for an Aging Physician Workforce

The Aging Population and the Effects on Healthcare

The aging population’s increasing effects on healthcare have been making headline news for years. While the focus is usually on how baby boomers’ medical needs will be met in the coming years, healthcare organizations must also remember that an important subgroup within this demographic—physicians—is aging, as well.

What Does this Mean for the Future of Healthcare?

The combination of an aging patient population and an aging physician population is creating one of the underlying drivers of the growing physician shortage. Every year, more physicians age out of their full-time practice, while, at the same time, more senior patients are in need of physicians. According to AAMC, by 2025, demand for physicians will exceed supply by up to 90,000.

What Healthcare Organizations Should Be Doing Now

Now is the time for healthcare organizations to explore planning strategies to offset this anticipated demographic change. When you consider the number of years required to train a physician, particularly a specialist, succession planning requires a lot of forward thought.

To understand the important implications of unplanned early or late physician retirement, in terms of patient safety and human resource allocations, a series of studies by the National Center for Biotechnology Information examined the timing and process of retirement of physicians. They concluded that excessive workload and burnout were frequently cited reasons for early retirement; ongoing financial obligations delayed retirement; and strategies to mitigate career dissatisfaction, workplace frustration, and workload pressure supported continuing practice.

With this knowledge, planning of successors can be deliberate. Healthcare organizations might consider fostering retirement mentorship programs, resource toolkits, education sessions, and financial planning workshops for physicians over the course of their careers. The aforementioned studies found that one tangible, successful strategy for retention in aging physician populations was a reduction in working hours. A steady shift from clinical duties to teaching and mentoring not only helped the retirees, but also transferred knowledge and wisdom to younger professionals.

However prepared organizations are, though, turnover is expensive. According to the Well-Being Index by Mayo Clinic, the average institution sees $1.3M in lost revenue, recruitment, and replacement costs of physician vacancies. This figure should serve as a reminder to hire deliberately. If you don’t yet have a strategic recruitment and retention plan in place to preemptively navigate the hurdles that the aging physician workforce brings, Jordan Search Consultants can help. Our innovative recruitment solutions, extensive physician database, and passive and active search strategies ensure access to top candidates across the nation to fill your future openings. Contact us for more information.

By |