How will the economy affect hospitalist salaries?

It’s been said that hospitalists are the fastest growing specialist field in the history of medicine.

Hospitals are constantly recruiting, and the increasing demand is continually pushing salaries up. But, in the midst of the current recession, what does the future hold?

Writing in Today’s Hospitalist (via Dr. RW), Erik DeLue predicts that salaries are likely to plateau, or even fall. Most hospitals run these programs at a loss, and there is a danger that as margins continue to be squeezed, some hospitals may conclude that it’s not worth the financial burden.

It will be interesting to see what will happen if hospitals decide to disband their hospitalist programs. Will outpatient doctors now be required to take care of their inpatients?

I assume there’s no other choice. However, under that scenario, consider that most of these doctors have been away from hospital medicine for years. Such an erosion of skills may endanger patients, lengthen patient stays, and reduce these physicians’ outpatient productivity.

I don’t think that hospitals are willing to take that chance. So, as long as it continues to be a buyer’s market, hospitals are going have to live with their skyrocketing salaries.

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