Productivity of Part-Time Physicians

Physicians are increasingly interested in part-time work.

To compare differences in productivity between full-time and part-time physicians, the authors used adjusted relative value units (aRVU) and adjusted Medical Group Management Association (aMGMA) percentiles were obtained for 2015 (n=183) and 2016 (n=176) for primary-care physicians specializing in family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics who practiced for more than two years. The objective of this study was to compare differences in productivity between full-time and part-time physicians who practice in a productivity-based financial model.

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There is increasing interest in part-time work among both male and female physicians, especially among clinicians raising families and in the latter stages of their careers. Pediatricians who reported that they work part-time increased from 15% in 2000 to 20% in 2003 to 23% in 2006. This pattern was consistent for both male and female pediatricians of all ages.

woman-2773007_960_720However, the perception of physicians who work part-time is often negative. These attitudes about part-time clinicians come from several perspectives. One is from the vocation of medicine itself, which prides itself on an unwavering commitment to patients over self as a core value not usually found in other professions. The negative perception of part-time clinical work is also evidenced by a history of some insurers excluding part-time physicians from their networks and organizations, thereby discouraging part-time work through unsupportive policies or financial penalties.

Regardless of the perception, part-time physicians report higher clinician satisfaction including less burnout and greater work control than full-time physicians, as well as scoring at least as well as their full-time colleagues on quality measures. Patients have also reported better satisfaction with part-time primary-care physicians, despite less continuity of care and access. Part-time clinicians could be a net benefit to the healthcare system if productivity and patient satisfaction were not compromised, but there is little research that examines the impact of productivity when physicians choose to work less than a full-time equivalent (FTE)

The long hours in the practice of medicine create a cycle of burden and burnout that is difficult to sustain, and which can result in physicians leaving primary care, choosing early retirement, or transitioning to other careers. Since there is a projected work-force shortage in primary care, the ability to recruit the next generation of primary-care practitioners may be an important driver of organization success. As the financial case mounts that the contributions of part-time physicians are as significant as those of full-time physicians, organizations may be willing to support or even encourage the hiring of physicians who want to work less than a full FTE. Offering physicians, the option of part-time employment may result in higher retention.

 

Article appeared in The Journal of Medical Practice Management, May–June 2018

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