Mental health care is in the news almost daily these days. Common story lines are about undiagnosed people, rising substance abuse rates, and the high cost of care. A contributing factor is the shortage of highly trained providers. Psychiatrists ranked seventh in US News and World Reports 2016 Best Jobs list. Psychiatrists are a new entry in the list and represent 15% of the overall demand for the top 10 jobs through 2024. (Take a look at our blog post, Physician Assistants are in Demand, to see the other eight healthcare jobs that were in the top 10.)
According to PsychCentral.com, “psychiatrists make up approximately 5 percent of all 661,400 physicians and surgeons employed in the U.S. in 2008. This is a rate similar to general surgery, OBGYN and anesthesiology.” In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated there were about 34,000 psychiatrists in the US. The demand for psychiatrists (4,200) represents ~12% of the current industry.
Like with physician assistants and nurse practitioners, we’re seeing evidence of market demand in provider directories. We used NetMinder to analyze psychiatrist and psychologist populations in six large national behavioral networks and five large national medical networks between March 2015 and March 2016. Here’s what we found:
- Significantly fewer psychiatrists and psychologists participate in medical networks than behavioral networks. This reflects the common practice of carving behavioral health out of medical plans.
- Psychiatrists are in demand. Behavioral networks added twice as many psychiatrists as psychologists. Medical networks grew more slowly, adding just 5% more psychiatrists than psychologists. The shortage is felt in commercial networks as well as in other care settings.
- Each type of network focused on retaining different providers. Behavioral networks retained more psychologists. Medical networks retained more psychiatrists. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication so they fit better in medical plans with pharmacy benefits. And medication management is more lucrative. On average, a psychiatrist who charges for 45-50 minutes of psychotherapy earns $74-$107 less than he or she would for three 15-minute sessions of medication management. The reason may be that insurers figure that psychotherapy, which is time consuming and may go on for months, should be handled by providers who charge less.
Similar to other jobs on the list that require long and rigorous training, psychiatrists report high compensation, strong job satisfaction, and low unemployment rates. As in past years, the rankings take compensation, flexibility, opportunities for advancement, market demand, amount of stress, and skills or training required into consideration. See the survey methodology here.
How is the need for more psychiatrists affecting your network?