Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine have devised an innovative method to measure doctor turnover, revealing an alarming trend. Between 2010 and 2018, the annual rate of physicians leaving their practices increased by 43%, from 5.3% to 7.6% per year. The reasons for this surge are not yet known but warrant further investigation.
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on July 11, the study showed that the initial three quarters of 2020, coinciding with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, did not correlate with higher turnover rates. However, more data are required to comprehend turnover trends related to COVID-19.
To estimate turnover, the researchers developed an algorithm using the Medicare Data on Provider Practice and Specialty (MD-PPAS) database, providing more reliable estimates compared to previous survey-based assessments. The study found that turnover mainly occurred between 2010 and 2014, with a significant proportion resulting from doctors who ceased practicing, possibly linked to the requirement of electronic medical records during those years.
Turnover may lead to limited access to care, especially for underserved and rural communities. Notably, doctors in rural areas were more likely to move or stop practicing than their urban counterparts, and female doctors had a higher turnover rate than male doctors. Larger practices experienced higher turnover compared to smaller ones, and physicians caring for more Medicare and Medicaid-eligible patients were also prone to turnover.
By understanding the reasons behind physician turnover, healthcare facilities can develop effective programs to retain their providers. The researchers are making their algorithm publicly available for other researchers to utilize.
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