People often think about the aging baby boomer generation, but they tend to forget about the aging physician population, a local medical professional said.

Jim Denning, chief executive officer of Discover Vision Centers in Independence, spoke about the results of the Metropolitan Medical Society of Greater Kansas City’s 2008 Economic Footprint Study during last week’s Independence Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Right now, 44 percent of all medical practices in the Kansas City metropolitan area are looking for an additional doctor, Denning said. Within five years, that number will increase to 74 percent, he said.

“Nobody thinks about ‘help wanted’ for doctors because you don’t see it on (,” Denning said. “The ‘help wanted’ sign right now is enormous.”

Denning said the Kansas City area often has difficulty in recruiting medical professionals “because it has no oceans, beaches or mountains.”

Conducted by IQS Research, the 2008 Economic Footprint Study gathered information from a population of 4,428 physicians who represent 356 practices and hospitals in the Kansas City metropolitan service area. Data also was gathered from respondents who agreed to provide more in-depth financial information. The study represents data from the 2007 calendar or fiscal year. 

Medical practices are small businesses, Denning said. In Kansas City alone, physicians’ offices have an annual payroll of $2.7 billion, according to the study. This represents about 7 percent of the entire wage base in the Kansas City metropolitan area, Denning said.

“We’re a growth industry,” he said. “For every doctor we hire, we hire four additional staff members to support the doctor.”

In the future, physicians must ensure that tort reform isn’t eroded in the marketplace, Denning said.

“Up until tort reform, we were unable to hire any physicians in Missouri. They simply would not come here,” he said. “Over the last six years, we’ve gotten tort reform under control, and we’ve been able to hire doctors on a regular basis.”

A healthy economic area, along with support for public safety, also attract new physicians, Denning said.

“A physician will not live in a community that has bad public safety – they may work, but they will not live,” he said.