IU Health Physicians ramps up recruiting drive for specialists

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Faced with a deepening shortage of specialty physicians, Indiana University Health is ramping a recruiting drive in cardiology, neurology and other areas with a new twist: the physicians don’t have to make a big commitment to teach or do research with the IU School of Medicine.

That’s a break from past practice. Traditionally, physicians who joined IU Health Physicians—the largest medical practice group in the state, with about 1,800 doctors—were required to join the medical school faculty and spend a certain fraction of their work hours teaching and doing research.

Some physicians resisted, preferring to focus the bulk of their time seeing patients. Some doctors in the suburbs didn’t want to travel downtown several days a week to the medical school.

So IU Health is relaxing the requirement in an effort to hire more specialists and cut the waiting time for patients trying to get an appointment.

The goal is to hire about 32 specialists this year and an unspecified number over the long term, said Dr. Kevin Gebke, an IU Health family practice physician who is leading the effort.

“A big part of this is just the recognition that we know that through building a very large, robust primary care enterprise, we’ve created much more demand for specialty access than we can currently  meet,” Gebke said. “We have certainly delayed in getting our patient in to see some of our specialists.”

The initial goal is to hire physicians in neurology, cardiology, orthopedics and other specialists that see patients primarily in outpatient settings, he said.

The issue is critical because of a looming shortage of physicians. Indiana’s population is aging, and that often brings chronic conditions that need more medical attention. Meanwhile, about one-third of Indiana’s doctors are 60 or older and preparing to retire.

So all hospital systems are looking for doctors. IU Health is hoping this new approach will help it stand out in the crowd.

Another potentially big drawing point: IU Health Physicians have a base of some 250,000 primary care patients, giving specialists a big population to work with.

“Specialty physicians looking for a practice home will have access to that patient base and will certainly build practices very quickly,” Gebke said.

Still, new hires in the IU Health Physicians’ Community Medical Group would be expected to help the medical school occasionally, guiding students and enrolling patients in clinical trials, but not as full-fledged faculty members.

“We know we’ve created an opportunity that looks very different from what we’ve previously offered,” Gebke said. “And we also recognize that the model of the future is mostly going to be an employed physician model, as opposed to self-employed or small group model. With that in mind, we think physicians are going to consider IUHP because of this new opportunity.”

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