Hospitals offer more perks to lure primary care docs

A new study by a St. Louis-based health care consulting and search firm and Modern Healthcare magazine shows that hospitals are going to great lengths to attract scarce primary care physicians.

Among the 431 hospitals that responded to the annual Physician Recruitment Practices Survey, paying moving expenses and malpractice insurance; compensation guarantees; free office space; management services and support staff; and loan forgiveness over time were the top perks offered new recruits.

Almost 75% of the hospitals plan to provide physicians with compensation guarantees. More than 57% will cover malpractice insurance and almost half will provide office space and management services. Nearly 47% will offer loan forgiveness; 44% will hire physician extenders, and 37% will make loan guarantees.

Despite recent regulatory rulings and court cases reining in some generous recruitment practices, more than 70% of hospital respondents said their recruitment programs were not influenced by legal events, cases, or rulings.

"Lack of government follow-up on regulations and increased competition to recruit primary care physicians seem to have caused hospitals to be less focused on the potential repercussions that might result from bold recruitment strategies," says Sue Cejka, president of Cejka & Co., the search firm that co-sponsored the survey.