Consider the statistics given by the American Cancer Association: currently there are 14.5 million cancer survivors in the United States and this figure is expected to rise given the high prevalence of cancer. By 2024 – just 10 years down the line – the figure is projected at 19 million cancer survivors. As such, oncology recruitment, and that of related specialties, needs to be done at a fast pace to keep up with the demand for oncologists.
This is a challenging scenario given that oncologists are, and will continue to be, in short supply. According to the American Society for Clinical Oncology, the United States is projected to have a shortage of 1,500 Oncologists by 2025. Given advances in medical technology and palliative care for a variety of cancers, the survival rates of cancer patients have shown an upward trajectory. Earlier detection, greater patient awareness, newer and improved treatments and easier access to care mean that cancer survivors are living longer lives. This translates into greater need for more trained oncologists. A rapidly ageing and retiring population that needs and will continue to need cancer care combined with shortage of oncologists means those patients will suffer if they do not have sufficient access to these providers. Organizations are trying to keep up with the projected demand of these specialists, but as the needs continue to grow, the recruitment of qualified oncologists will become increasingly difficult.
The strain many hospitals and health systems feel in the recruitment of oncologists is exacerbated by specialized cancer centers that cater to the over all health needs of cancer patients. These centers have sprung up and offer an integrated and comprehensive approach to cancer treatment. For hospital administrators this proves an additional challenge in the effort to recruit and retain top quality oncologists and related specialists. This challenge is felt even more acutely in rural communities, where 1 in 5 Americans reside but only 3 percent of oncologists practice.
The PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) that has now come into effect means that even patients with pre-existing diseases, who were earlier unable to get insurance coverage, can now no longer be denied coverage. This increases the cost to the insurance company as these individuals are at higher risk and more likely to incur heavy medical costs that have to be borne by the insurance company. Overall medical costs then increase as patients have greater and easier access to the right treatments and even preventive care.
From a financial standpoint, oncology serves as an important source of revenue with an Oncologist bringing in an average of $1,380,482 in revenue. As such, it is even more important for organizations to recruit enough oncologists to meet the growing need. Unfortunately for hospital administrators and recruiters, the available pool of oncologists is simply not enough to meet the demand and will continue to be an area of concern in the future. Currently, only 2% of all residents are pursuing oncology, far fewer than the market needs.
While the situation is looking more difficult, there are still options available to hospital administrators seeking to decrease the impact of a shallow candidate pool. Increasing fellowship options, expanding the role of primary care physicians where disease management is concerned, improving delivery of services and increasing the retirement age of practicing oncologists, are only a few. Where oncology recruitment is concerned, it is important to recruit the well-trained and experienced oncologists and hold on to them as their services are going to be in even greater need.