Why are the needs for radiologists increasing?

Dear friends in radiology:

I hope you’re all well.  I recently blogged in a post that the need for radiologists and radiology recruitment is back after a nearly eight year funk or downfall in the specialty.  Please visit that post on our www.smartphysicianrecruiting.com blog post.  Just as a reminder, I’m Patrick Moore, President of SMART Physician Recruiting.  I personally have nineteen years of senior level radiology recruitment experience.  SMART is a nationwide healthcare recruitment company that has specialized in radiology recruitment since its inception.

So why is the need for radiology recruitment increasing?  Good question.  The simple answer is time and consolidation.  Eight years ago the specialty was in peril.  Very few job openings, very few groups, practices and hospitals adding jobs and several graduating fellows and residents really struggled to find employment post their programs.  That all has changed obviously.  Lets examine the factors I just mentioned and break this down a little deeper.

# 1.  Time.  After the deficit reduction ACT of 2008, a sweeping change to technical reimbursement for outpatient radiology centers, nearly 2 out of 3 of these centers either closed or went out of business across the country in the proceeding years.  That had a dramatic impact on the number of radiology openings in the country.  Suddenly hundreds of radiologists needed new or supplemental employment as they lost their work or income when these centers closed.

Eventually most of these radiologists found new work or employment but it reversed what had been a supply and demand issue.  Suddenly, supply of available radiologists was high and demand from the client was low.  Simple economics, that meant few jobs which also translated to falling income for radiologists in 2011-2017.

Despite this dramatic change, Time has eventually been an asset for radiologists.  The large baby boomer population has been retiring the past eight years opening new spots and opportunities for underemployed radiologists.  Couple that with the fact that radiology spots in fellowships and residency were not being filled to capacity the past ten years because of the negative perception that radiology was no longer a hot specialty for students coming out of medical school.  That brings us back to simple economics again.  If you have more retirees, less new grads coming out seeking new employment, then you have an increase in demand for radiologists coupled with an increase in the supply of open positions or opportunities as well.

#2.  Besides time, the second biggest factor on employment has been radiology acquisition and consolidation of the specialty.  This is also being called “Mega-groups or Management Companies.”  It’s not a new trend.  Radcare-owned by Emcare, now called Envision and Team Health, tried early in the 2000’s to deploy their best practices of physician management and outsourcing the radiology department to their management.  Surprisingly it didn’t work in radiology at that time.  Both of these companies have found wide success in emergency medicine and hospitalist medicine outsourcing these departments but they’ve not found a stickiness in radiology.  Yet that is anyway.

However, other groups have picked up that slack in the past 3-5 years.  Groups with more experience in radiology management and a more regional approach rather than a national approach are growing and gaining traction.  RadPartners, Radia, Radiology Associates of North Texas are all growing mega-groups with both a regional footprint and a growing national footprint.  More and more C-suites are trusting their services and they’re expanding by winning contracts in small or medium sized hospitals outside of their normal regional geographic footprint.

As these mega groups grow and add more hospitals, historically the existing radiologists are disenchanted with a new manager or company taking their contract.  Those radiologists are not staying and as a result are seeking new employment.  This adds to the staffing needs in radiology as these groups need locums in the interim to staff and read at these sites.

The research we’ve done in the past twelve months has shown that the average age of the radiologists that are losing these contracts to mega-groups are nearly 57 years old.  What does that mean?  We’re finding that as these radiologists leave and don’t stay with the new mega-group.  They’re often retiring or seeking minimal employment or choosing to be underemployed.

That makes more openings and a growing demand as someone has to read the volumes of cases for these sites and hospitals.

I’ll likely expand more on both of these factors in blogs to come.