Labor Pains: Physician Shortages, Burnout, and the Increasing Cost of Practice in Women’s Health

Vertical: Women’s Health
Author: JC Lupis
Date: February 2020

OB/GYNs are confronted with a difficult workload that makes them prone to burnout. Consider the following statistics regarding the OB/GYN workforce:

  • OB/GYNs are about 35% more likely than physicians overall to say that long hours are the most challenging part of their job.
  • OB/GYNs are among the bottom-ranking specialties in terms of satisfaction with compensation (22nd out of a list of 29 specialties) and likelihood of choosing their specialty again (23rd out of 29 specialties).
  • Almost two in three OB-GYNs will face legal action at some point, a higher rate than any other specialty. More than three-quarters of those age 55 and older have been sued.
  • Close to two-thirds of OB/GYNs age 50 and older would like to retire early.

Given these factors, it’s perhaps not surprising that the OB/GYN workforce faces an impending wave of retirements – and as a result, a looming physician shortage.

This staffing challenge is just one factor putting pressure on providers’ margins. Reporting metrics and program compliance are changing, leading to increased administrative burdens and overhead. OB/GYNs identify the most challenging aspect of their job to be the variety of rules and regulations they face. Moreover, additional staff is sometimes required to manage the electronic health record (EHR) conversions associated with the incorporation of payment systems. Three-quarters (76%) of OB/GYNs surveyed for one report said they spend at least 10 hours per week on documentation.

Faced with these challenges, many OB/GYNs have opted out and lost their independence: the percentage working in physician-owned and solo practices has declined, while the share of OB/GYNs employed by hospitals has grown.

Some have found alternatives to hospital employment, though. Many women’s health providers are choosing to join with larger groups or partner with MSOs to help mitigate many of the difficulties they face, all while maintaining clinical autonomy. The economies of scale provided by MSOs and private equity-backed strategic acquirers can ease logistic and administrative burdens and diffuse the cost of new and expensive equipment. Additionally, larger practices have more leverage when negotiating reimbursements and tend to have lower overheard costs.

Women’s Health Market: Key Data Point

Half of US counties lack a single OB-GYN – with these areas home to more than 10 million women.

Source: Association of American Medical Colleges

Women’s Health Market: Key Chart

Projected Shortages in the Number of OB/GYNs in Practice


GHA’s Women’s Health Market Brief includes the following sections:

  • Women’s Health Market-At-A-Glance
  • Women’s Health Market Developments
  • Growth Factors
  • Key Women’s Health Market Data
  • The Mergers & Acquisitions Landscape

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