Psychiatry, Primary Care Among Most In-Demand Medical Specialties

Team of doctors
Team of doctors
Growing concern over mental health care is being met by a shortage of psychiatrists.

With the Affordable Care Act now firmly in place, the call for health care led by family physicians is getting louder. Indeed, primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, along with those who treat chronic illness, such as psychiatrists, pulmonologists, and cardiologists, are in great demand. 

Those with medical specialties in family medicine, internal medicine, and psychiatry are the top three most-requested specialists, according to Merritt Hawkins, a physician staffing firm based in Texas. 

The annual report, which reflects recruiting trends for medical professionals, shows that the need for psychiatrists is greater than ever as the topic of mental health continues to grow in cultural significance. The need is not being met, however, with 48% of psychiatrists expected to retire within the next five years. 

“Mental health is a topic that the health system and patients themselves often avoid,” said Merritt Hawkins vice president Travis Singleton, in a press release. “For that reason, psychiatry can be considered the ‘silent shortage,’ even though shortages in psychiatry may be even more acute than they are in primary care.”

The demand is only expected to grow. The adoption of population health management is expected to keep primary care and chronic care professionals in high demand, all while private practice continues to decline. Only 5% of search assignments conducted through Merritt Hawkins over the last year were for independent practice settings, with 95% of inquiries coming from hospitals, medical groups, urgent care settings, federal health clinics, and other places of employment. 

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that physicians are still expected to deliver care based on quantity, not quality. Among employers offering physician production bonuses, only 23% based the bonus wholly or in-part on value-based metrics like patient satisfaction, a drop from 39% two years ago. Overall, physician compensation still relies heavily on relative value units, patient visits, and net collections. 

How do you feel about the current climate within your medical specialty? Let us know in the comments.

Most In-Demand Medical Specialties

Infographic courtesy Merritt Hawkins