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Radiology Workforce to Stay Steady Through 2016


CHICAGO - Some signs point to dismal job prospects while others look more promising. Most agree the radiology workforce will stay flat for the next few years.

CHICAGO - What’s the job outlook for radiologists? It depends on which of the many cues you’re considering.

First there are the negative signs, including sluggish recovery from the recession, which has kept many senior radiologists from retiring, healthcare reform’s push for less imaging, decreases in reimbursement, increased use of advanced practice providers, patient fear of radiation and research cuts in the form of sequestration. Carolyn Meltzer, MD, chair of radiology and imaging sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, detailed the outlook at a session at RSNA 2013.

Some signs point to a need for more radiologists: More baby boomers are becoming heavy users of healthcare, millions of uninsured are entering the market, and patients are becoming more engaged in their care and demanding more scans.

But most agree, the trajectory for actual numbers of radiologists needed is trending flat for the next several years.

ACR workforce survey

Edward Bluth, MD, radiologist at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans and chairman of the Commission on Human Resources for ACR, summarized findings from the ACR 2013 workforce survey at the session.

  • The largest number of radiologists are in the South; the smallest number are in New England.
  • About 50 percent are in private practice, down slightly from last year’s survey.
  • 7 percent of practicing radiologists are older than 65.
  • 20 to21 percent are general radiologists, down slightly from the previous year.
  • The largest group of radiologists hired in 2013 are expected to be general radiologists (16 percent) followed by general interventionalists (14 percent).
  • The largest number of jobs in 2016 are projected to be in the South; the fewest will be in the Northeast.
  • The largest numbers of jobs in 2016 will be in private practice, followed by academic universities.
  • In 2012, 1,400 radiologists were hired; in 2013, projections point to 1,500. For perspective, 1,200 residents finish each year.
  • The numbers going up in 2013 are general radiologists and breast imagers; the numbers going down are in body imaging and pediatrics.

The study concluded that all residents are expected to find jobs, but they may not be in the geographic area they prefer and they may not land in the specialty they prefer.

Still, there is room for change in the predictions, Bluth said. “Remember, workforce needs will change depending on retirement, individual finances and health issues of practicing radiologists. … Also there are 2,100 practicing radiologists over the age of 65.”

The flat projected growth “assumes all the economic conditions remain the same. We don’t really understand the influence totally that Obamacare will give us and Accountable Care Organizations,” he said.

Results of the survey are published in the October issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

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