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Radiology Daily
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By 2020, the demand for radiologists could exceed supply by as much as 16 percent, according to a report by the physician-recruitment firm LocumTenens.com. It’s even possible, the report says, though “there are a lot of x-factors,” that we’ll see a job-growth boom like the one of 10 years ago.

“Retiring radiologists will exacerbate the problem,” the report says, “with 44 percent of them reaching age 65 within the next 10 years. Mounting frustrations with Medicare/Medicaid policy and an improving stock market could be the final impetus that drives still-active retirement-age radiologists to hang up their lab coats for good.”

Radiologists face some challenges. The report mentions continuing political pressure to reduce Medicare and Medicaid payments and the 75 percent utilization rate assumption that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPAC) will impose beginning in 2011. “We should expect to see an increase in imaging center closings as facilities with low volume perish and only the fittest survive,” the report says. And long-sought reform of medical-malpractice litigation, if ever realized, could reduce the number of defensive medicine-inspired imaging procedures.

The PPAC could also be a blessing as well as a curse. Up to 32 million newly insured patients might flood into the health-care system, and “the newly insured could have disproportionately high demand for services.”

The report, by Katie Thill, senior vice president of LocumTenens.com, generally forecasts that market forces will keep the demand for radiologists and the supply of new doctors roughly in balance.

The report estimates that radiologists work about 50 hours a week, down from 56 to 57 hours in the late 1990s. Average vacation time has soared, from 27 days in 1995 to 39 days in 2007. Despite those trends, productivity has increased. From 1997 to 2007, the report says, the number of annual procedures per radiologist increased 16 percent, from 12,800 to 14,900. “This change,” it says, “is a testament to the advances in PACS and imaging technology.”

Other report tidbits:

  • “The radiology workforce increased by approximately 25 percent over the past 15 years.”
  • From 2000 through 2008, the increase in compensation for noninterventional radiologists (adjusted for inflation) was 35 percent. For interventional radiologists (who started the decade averaging 16 percent more income than noninterventional radiologists), the increase was 26 percent. The overall increase for all specialist physicians was 6.95 percent.
  • The American College of Radiology estimates that only 20 percent of radiologists are women, though women make up about a third of doctors overall. In a 2005 Radiologic Society of North America survey, 95 percent of female respondents said they did not choose radiology because of the “lack of direct patient contact.”
  • “A 2008 LocumTenens.com survey of physicians showed that 29 percent of radiologists, if they had to do it all over again, would not choose a career in medicine. This was the highest percentage among nine specialties surveyed.”

Related seminar: Radiology Review Course

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