3 radiology takeaways from 2017 physician recruitment report

An annual review of the search assignments conducted by physician recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins revealed an upturn in radiology hiring, among other trends. The review is based on the over 3,200 physician search assignments received by Merritt Hawkins and sister companies from April 2016 to March 2017.

  1. Radiology’s back, baby

Radiology was among the top 10 most requested specialties for recruiting assignments—the first time since 2007. Family medicine remained on top for the 11th straight year and psychiatry placed second for the first time, indicating a shortage of mental health professionals.

The clamor for radiologists reached a peak in 2003 when it topped the list of requested assignments at Merritt Hawkins. While demand was suppressed by an influx of trainees and reimbursement cuts during the 2000s it’s now recovering, according to the report.

“Renewed demand for radiologists was inevitable because imaging remains central to diagnostic and procedural work in today’s healthcare system, in which very little transpires without an image,” the report said. “Given improvements in the economy and the effect of population aging on utilization, demand for radiologists was going to rise at some point.”

  1. Making it worth the while

The average offered salary for a radiologist placed by Merritt Hawkins was $436,000, climbing to $494,000 for a teleradiology post. These are among the highest salaries offered to the top 20 desired specialties—on par with specialties such as dermatology, but not quite reaching the $500,000+ price tag an orthopedic surgeon demands.

  1. Demand for radiologists may continue to rise

The aging U.S. population isn’t just affecting patients. Almost half of radiologists are 55 years of age or older, creating plenty of spots for trainees to fill in the future.

In addition, the proliferation of teleradiology has not yet fueled the gig economy-style drive to the lowest cost provider that some have feared. Facilities are seeking both onsite and teleradiologists, indicating the days of the brick-and-mortar radiologist are not yet finished.

Other Insights

  • The demand for orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and other specialists continues to climb, reflecting the complex health issues posed by an aging population.
  • Anesthesiology returned to the top 20 most-requested specialties for the first time since 2010, again a symptom of an elderly America.
  • Volume metrics are still overwhelmingly used to determine physician productivity, even as regulatory bodies and professional societies unite behind a value-based care agenda. Value-based incentives account for just four percent of overall physician compensation, according to the report, while most organizations continue to use Relative Value Units.