Shortages, recruitment top concerns for Massachusetts' docs

[See also: Foreign medical graduates formidable allies when fighting physician shortage]

The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) released on Oct. 2 the results of its annual study of the state’s physician workforce. Physician shortages, difficulty with recruiting and dissatisfaction with the working environment ranked among the chief concerns identified in the study.

The 2012 Physician Workforce Study is MMS’ 11th annual comprehensive look at the physician workforce in Massachusetts and includes surveys of practicing physicians, department chiefs of teaching hospitals and medical staff presidents of community hospitals.

According to the study, one of the biggest concerns among respondents is physician shortages. Internal medicine, psychiatry, urology and neurosurgery are considered to be in critical shortage in 2012, while dermatology, family medicine and general surgery are in severe shortage.

“We still have shortages of physicians in key specialties, especially primary care,” said Richard Aghababian, MD, MMS president. “There is a stated desire [in the study] to create incentives to encourage people to go into primary care and the scarce specialties.”

The study found mixed results regarding the recruitment of physicians in the state.
While 2012 marked the fifth consecutive year that saw a decrease in both the recruiting time to hire physicians and in the number of physicians reporting difficulty in retaining physician staff, recruitment still remains difficult for those seven specialties seeing critical and severe shortages and in areas outside of Boston.

Aghababian said one way the society is trying to improve the recruiting process is to encourage the state’s medical students to remain in Massachusetts after they graduate.

“We are trying to keep students who graduate in Massachusetts in the state,” explained Aghababian. “We have to work on specialty shortages and keep the doctors here who come here to train. We need to make the state attractive.”

For the second year in a row, the percentage of physicians (40 percent) that say they are satisfied with the practice environment in Massachusetts equals the percentage (40 percent) that say they are dissatisfied, though both viewpoints showed a two-percent decrease from last year.

Physicians generally feel there is “too much administrative work such as getting prior approvals before running a test. These things distract from the physician/patient relationship,” said Aghababian.

“The workforce study suggests satisfaction with the practice environment is affected by physicians feeling mired and distracted from working with patients,” said Aghababian. “They feel there is more burden on them to do things other than just advise their patients.”

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