New study reveals profit opportunity amid physician shortage

The growing shortage of physicians in the U.S. comes at a crucial time. Healthcare reform will increase the number of people with health insurance coverage, creating more demand for physicians. For hospitals, the long-term effect of this is that the cost of hiring a physician will increase as the supply decreases in the face of rising demand.

A new study shows how hospitals are coping with this situation—which also points out an opportunity for profit and building value.

New study: The hiring of “physician extenders” is on the rise across the nation, according to research by HealtheCareers, a healthcare recruiting company. Physician extenders are nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs), and the number of job openings for these positions grew by 35% and 22%, respectively, in the third quarter of 2012, versus the same quarter in 2011.

These medical professionals perform certain tasks in place of physicians. They cost less than physicians, so the more they can be used, the more the opportunity for profit—and value. Extenders can play a key role in handling the influx of new business that healthcare reform will trigger and eliminate the need for a corresponding increase in expensive primary physicians.

The research also says that a shortage of nurses “may not be far off.” As a result, NPs and PAs are being called upon more than ever to fill in gaps in patient care caused by the current physician and looming nursing shortages. Says HealtheCareers: “We expect the demand for NPs and PAs to continue to grow, particularly in the primary care arena.”