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COVID-19 Is Causing an ‘Unprecedented’ Reduction in Physician Demand

But the Merritt-Hawkins report says that an aging population and physician workforce will improve demand after the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is reducing starting salaries and practice options for physicians, according to an annual report from Dallas-based Merritt-Hawkins.

The report sampled 3,251 physicians and advanced practitioner recruiting engagements from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, and noted a drop in demand for physicians. “Over our 33-year history, most physicians had little difficulty finding a job opportunity, with multiple offers to choose from,” said Travis Singleton, executive vice president with Merritt Hawkins/AMN Healthcare via release. “Today, we are seeing a growing number who are unemployed with a limited number of roles available. This is unprecedented.  COVID-19 essentially flipped the physician job market in a matter of 60 days.”

The study noted an increase in the number of physicians seeking employment, but demand for physicians dropped by 30 percent. “Conditions for those hospitals and medical groups that continue to recruit physicians are about as favorable as we have ever seen,” Singleton said via release.

The reduction in demand is connected to lost revenues caused by the cancellation of elective surgeries and patients avoiding the doctor’s office and hospitals. The American Hospital Association reports a $200 billion loss for health systems in the first quarter of the year, and the Medical Group Management Association says that physician revenue declined by 55 percent as patients have stayed away from the hospital. The lower revenues are causing a decreased demand for physicians.

But the shortage in demand will most likely be short-lived, the report says. The United States is rapidly aging and has a limited supply of physicians, many of whom are also aging out of the profession. Before the end of the year, the report indicates that demand will return, and the physician shortage that has been predicted will continue to be a factor.

“While the pandemic will change how healthcare is delivered, physicians will remain indispensable caregivers, and we anticipate a renewed demand for both their clinical services and their leadership in the post-pandemic world,” Singleton said via release.

Read the full report here.

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