Demand for primary care physicians slackens while outlook for specialists seems to brighten

The demand for primary care physicians is lessening relative to the demand for specialists, according to information gathered by Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, a health care headhunting company. In 1996—97, Merritt experienced a 12-percent increase in searches for primary care physicians compared with the previous year, but for the first time since the review was initially conducted in 1993, searches for specialists–up 51 percent–outpaced those for primary care physicians. The review also indicates that the mean financial packages offered to specialists increased, while those offered to at least two categories of primary care physicians–family practice and pediatrics–remained relatively flat. Low and high amounts indicate lowest and highest individual offerings. Merritt says the figures reflect what's being offered to doctors now, and uses the data to measure the viability of financial packages presented by medical groups, hospitals and HMOs. The numbers have real-world clout.