Doctors Search for Employment Opportunities in a Changing Market
It is no secret that the landscape of healthcare is changing. Between policy changes, an aging workforce and shifting values, doctors find themselves in a job environment very different from a generation ago. Fortunately, the job market for medical doctors is excellent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for physicians and surgeons is expected to grow 24% from 2010-2020. In particular, there will be a greater demand for primary care doctors due to: 1) a predicted shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs); and 2) the Affordable Care Act's focus on preventive care. Job prospects for doctors in low-income and rural areas are equally robust. Likewise, specialists will continue to be in high demand.
Physician Job Trends
Well-documented trends show that how and where doctors practice medicine are changing. Perhaps the most significant shift is the increasing hospital-physician alignment. Hospitals are acquiring practices—often family medicine and pediatric practices—to ensure their presence in the local market. Additionally, physicians today tend to enter private practice later into their career than their predecessors. Many prefer to be employed rather than to establish their own private practice initially. This may be in part driven by the large burden of student loans from medical school and the desire to pay down debt while sharpening clinical skills. Moreover, employment opportunities have expanded. In addition to working in clinical settings and academia, an increasing number of doctors are pursuing careers in public health, health policy, consulting and other areas.
Lifestyle considerations are important to today's doctors. Physicians pursue various avenues to achieve their ideal work-life balance. As medical students, many chose specialties with lighter schedules. Others find that locum tenens opportunities allow for the flexibility and autonomy they desire. Another growing trend is job-sharing: Two physicians each work part-time hours to fill the usual FTE of one. That being said, a number of physicians eventually find these arrangements to be too constraining on freedom and earning potential. As they mature in their career, some of physicians find that buying a practice or buying into a practice as an associate affords them a good balance of lifestyle and profit potential.
Private Practice Ownership
As mentioned previously, fewer doctors today plan to open a medical practice straight out of residency or fellowship. Yet the benefits of owning a practice intrigue many. Though initially some fear the financial risk or eschew the management responsibilities, this may change over the course of their career. Practice owners often earn far more than their employed and contracted counterparts. Another benefit is the autonomy of working for yourself: You can practice medicine and set your schedule as you choose. But if you decide to start a medical practice from scratch, how do you compete with established practices in the local market?....
An alternative to building a practice from the ground up is to acquire one. It often saves the time and cost needed to hire and train staff, develop relationships with payors and referring sources, garner a patient following, and establish a presence in the medical community. Most importantly, a practice acquisition affords the doctor with an existing base of patients (and referral streams). By purchasing an ongoing business, one can start earning revenue from day one. This is one viable option among many, yet one well worth exploring.
Christopher K. Lee is a valuation analyst with Transition Consultants. Transition Consultants is a national medical practice sales, appraisal, and financing firm. We assist with selling, buying, and merging medical practices. Call us at 800-416-2055 or visit transitionconsultants.com to explore our acquisition opportunities.