Recruited physicians courted with sign-on bonuses

Physician placement data compiled from 103 healthcare employers nationwide reveal substantial sign-on bonuses for doctors agreeing to employment contracts. The Medicus Firm, which specializes in permanent placement of physicians in hospitals, clinics and practices, reported on Feb. 14 that 88 percent of physicians in its dataset were paid an average of more than $20,000 to sign employment contracts in 2011.

Physicians received signing bonuses in addition to full reimbursement for relocation costs, The Medicus Firm said.

"As hospitals compete to employ more physicians, the stakes get higher and administrators discover that what used to be considered extraordinary is now average, or expected, when recruiting top physicians," stated Jim Stone, president and co-founder of The Medicus Firm.

"The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for the addition of 17,000 physicians in hospital settings through the year 2020, and 126,000 to be added in outpatient settings. Therefore, successful physician recruiting strategies and incentives will be paramount for healthcare employers throughout the next decade," Stone added.

Although the housing market remains sluggish, the percentage of physician relocations increased in 2011, as compared to 2010, The Medicus Firm said. Of the physicians placed in 2011, 93 percent moved to a new community for their new career opportunity.

Primary care remained the largest proportion of physician placements, but demand and placements in psychiatry and neurology increased dramatically. Additionally, placements in subspecialties of internal medicine grew from 12 percent to 18.6 percent.

Hospitals are employing physicians much more often than in recent years, according to the placement firm. Among the physicians placed in 2011, 83 percent entered employment agreements with a hospital, (as opposed to “recruiting agreements” to open or join a private physician-owned practice) and less than 5 percent of physicians were placed in solo practices.