The Radiology Staffing Market, Temporary and Permanent

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Provided by Regents Health Resources

Image Market File  Image Market File

Regents Health Resources was formed in 1996 to assist hospitals and physicians in the development and management of their medical-imaging and oncology services. The consultancy has served more than 500 clients nationwide with a diverse range of services, from strategic planning and operational assessments to joint-venture planning, valuations, and imaging-center sales and acquisitions.


 

Introduction: As pressures on reim- bursement and utilization continue to have an impact on the imaging market- place, radiology-staffing data suggest a shift in the availability and use of pro- fessional services over the past decade. This installment of the Imaging Market File tracks current and recent developments in the supply of radiologists, the demand for their temporary (locum tenens) and per- manent services, and related staffing trends, based on data collected by AMN Healthcare (San Diego, California) and Staff Care (Irving, Texas).

 

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Figure 1. The total active-candidate pool available to organizations seeking diagnostic radiologists, based on numbers tracked by the AMA Physician Masterfile, is 26,027.

 

The active candidate pool in diagnostic radiology: While the physicians in the pool number 26,027, 88% of whom are board certified (Figure 1), almost 75% of those in the current pool are older than 45, and nearly 20% are older then 65 (Figure 2).

 

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Figure 2. Active radiologists include only diagnostic radiologists active in patient care; almost half (46%) of radiologists are older than 55 and might be at or near retirement age.

 

The pipeline: The number of radiology residents in 2011 far exceeds the number in 1999, indicating that medical-school graduates continue to be attracted to the specialty (in contrast with areas such as primary care, where the number of US medical graduates has generally declined). The number of medical-school graduates selecting radiology residency programs decreased in the late 1990s (Figure 3), when it was widely predicted that managed care would decrease utilization of radiology services—and, by extension, would reduce practice opportunities and income for radiologists.

Ongoing radiology reimbursement cuts and the introduction of new delivery models (such as accountable care) could similarly reduce the number of medical-school graduates selecting radiology in the future. It should be noted, however, that the 2001 requirement of a fifth-year clinical rotation in radiology has not reduced the overall number of radiology residents and that the specialty remains attractive.

 

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Figure 3. The number of radiology residents has fluctuated over the years.

 

Demand: Recent demand for diagnostic radiologists is reflected in the number of radiology searches conducted by national physician-search company Merritt Hawkins (Irving, Texas), particularly when viewed as a percentage of total physician searches conducted in the same years (Figure 4). Merritt Hawkins reports that in the years 2000, 2001, and 2002, diagnostic radiology was the most requested physician search. In 2010, in contrast, radiology was the 17th most requested search.

Merritt Hawkins attributes the decline in demand for radiologists to the economic downturn, which has decreased the use of elective and other procedures; to the continuing reduction in reimbursement for radiology services; and to a robust supply of newly trained residents entering the field. Though demand for radiologists has slackened in recent years, starting salaries have generally held steady (Table 1). The most recent (2010) salary numbers from Merritt Hawkins for radiologists, however, suggest that salaries might be on a downward trend.

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Figure 4. The number of diagnostic-radiologist searches, by year, as a percentage of total physician searches conducted by Merritt Hawkins.

 

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Table 1. Starting Salaries for Radiologists, According to Merritt Hawkins

 

General physician demand: While the current supply of radiologists appears to be adequate for demand, the growth in the use of temporary physicians is evidence of the ongoing physician shortage, which has obliged hospitals, medical groups, and other facilities to use locum tenentes to maintain services and revenue while seeking physicians to fill permanent positions. Numbers from Staff Care1 (Figures 5 and 6) suggest that the use of locum tenens physicians remains common in health-care facilities. Table 2 compares costs per day for permanent and