In the age of Obamacare, AMN Healthcare Services Inc. would appear to be in a healthy position.
The San Diego company is the nation's largest healthcare staffing firm, and if the Affordable Care Act proves successful in its goal of providing healthcare for Americans who don't have it, the scramble for quality doctors and nurses will be intense.
There could be a shortage of up to 45,000 primary care doctors in the U.S. by 2020, according to the Assn. of American Medical Colleges.
The American Assn. of Colleges of Nursing says that the need for registered nurses will be so acute that the workforce will need to jump 26%, to 3.5 million in 2020, from 2010.
AMN Healthcare handles the recruiting and hiring of temporary and permanent doctors, nurses and other health professionals, helps the new employees integrate into their new surroundings, and offers solutions on how to manage staffing.
Its client list includes acute-care hospitals, government medical facilities, community health centers, clinics and physician groups.
AMN Healthcare was founded in Las Vegas in 1985 as American Mobile Nurses Inc. Two years later, it relocated to San Diego.
The company has 14 brands, some acquired through mergers and acquisitions. They include Nursefinders, for local daily nurse placements, and the Merritt Hawkins permanent doctor placement service.
Susan R. Salka joined the company as its first chief financial officer in 1990, and the company name was changed to AMN Healthcare Services in 2001 to reflect that it expended beyond nurses. The company went public in November 2001, raising $170 million.
Salka was named president in 2003 and added the title of chief executive in 2005.
Last month, AMN Healthcare reported fourth-quarter net income of $8.4 million, up 18% compared with a year earlier. Sales for the quarter were flat at $248.7 million.
For the full year of 2013, profit jumped 102% to $32.9 million. Sales increased 6% to more than $1 billion.
In November, the company acquired ShiftWise, considered a leading provider of workforce vendor management technology software and services in healthcare.
AMN Healthcare has evolved from a single service — nurse staffing — to a much more comprehensive approach in providing healthcare personnel.
"We have the largest national network of quality clinicians and physicians," Salka said, adding that the company now includes other "customizable solutions that help a hospital or health system manage their entire workforce."
Usually, hospitals would have to work with several companies to fulfill their staffing needs, but the company's Managed Services Programs have proved, Salka said, that it can serve as "a single point of contact" for "candidate quality screening, selection and interviews, time-keeping, invoicing and billing."
Salka said this "more efficient process reduces costs and improves the consistency of quality clinicians delivering care for each client."
One of the biggest tests the company faces is trying to keep up with the new demands of Obamacare, which could exacerbate other situations, Salka said.
"We expect that demand will increase over time, as more patients enter the system," Salka said, later adding that would "contribute to more demand for our staffing and workforce solutions."
In addition, nurse and doctor shortages are developing because current professionals are retiring and new ones aren't being trained fast enough, she said.
Wall Street is bullish about the company.
Of seven analysts that regularly follow AMN Healthcare, four have it rated as a strong buy, citing the company's strategic position in relation to the staffing needs of the Affordable Care Act.
Two other analysts rate it as a buy and one considers the stock a hold.
Separately, Zacks Investment Research, although not regularly covering AHS, recently said "now could definitely be the time for this breakout candidate."