Radiology recruitment shifts to hospitals, telerad companies

July 9, 2010
Rebekah Moan

Recruitment for radiologists has shifted from private radiology groups to hospitals and big teleradiology groups, according to national physician search firm Merritt Hawkins, an AMN Healthcare Company.

Recruitment for radiologists has shifted from private radiology groups to hospitals and big teleradiology groups, according to national physician search firm Merritt Hawkins, an AMN Healthcare Company.

Merritt Hawkins reviewed recruiting incentives of more than 2800 physicians from April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010. The sample for radiology is small but could be considered the beginning of a larger trend: The company is very rarely being asked to recruit radiologists by private groups.

“As a matter of fact, it’s more often than not the private groups that are saying, ‘We can’t afford to recruit. We need to cut back an FTE or two,’” said Sam Karam, division vice president of Merritt Hawkins. “Where we’re getting the requests is either from hospitals or these teleradiology companies, and even sometimes a multispecialty group.”

Other trends from the survey are that salaries for radiologists remain strong and a growing demand for cancer imagers.

Merrit Hawkins conducts the survey annually. For 2009 to 2010, the number of radiologist searches fell from 74 to 63. This is down from 109 in the year prior and 187 the year before that. Karam said the gap between supply and demand for radiologists may be shrinking because it takes fewer radiologists to do the same amount of work. Reimbursement changes are also taking a toll.

Medicare reimbursement cuts to radiologists, decreased utilization, and continued interest in radiology among medical graduates have helped to balance out the demand for radiologists and available supply, Karam said.

“I don’t see that changing; 2010 isn’t going to surprise us,” Karam said. “I’m going to assume the demand for searches for radiology is going to stay consistent with what we saw in 2009.”

Radiology is still one of the most requested searches but instead of being in the top three, it’s dropped to No. 9. The heyday for radiology was 2005 to 2007. Starting in 2008 demand dipped, which Karam attributes to increased efficiency and subspecialization of medicine, plus the economy.

“Most of our clients are not looking for general radiologists, they’re looking for subspecialists like neurointerventional radiologists,” he said. “The demand is there but it’s changed, it’s become more subspecialized, so the number of radiologists people require is fewer.”

On the salary front, radiologists are doing just fine. A low income for radiologists is $225,000, a medium income is $417,000, and a high income is $650,000. The latter two are base salary increases from 2008.

The opportunity for growth, though, is cancer care, Karam said.

“Cancer care, for us-along with behavioral health-is one of the fast [growing] segments of our business,” he said. “The cancer centers, they are hiring radiologists who are cancer focused to work on their cancer teams.”

That would be the next area of superior growth, he said.

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