How to Improve Your Physician Recruiting
By Tom Florence
In the ever changing world of healthcare, there remains one constant. Despite changes like value-based reimbursement and population health management, physicians remain both the economic and quality drivers of hospitals, medical groups, and other healthcare providers.
The 2016 Merritt Hawkins Inpatient/Outpatient Revenue Survey shows that each physician generates approximately $1.5 million in annual revenue for his or her hospital, to say nothing of the vital quality of care physicians provide.
This type of return on investment makes recruiting doctors a critical component of any healthcare facility’s strategic plan, but the task has become increasingly difficult in an era of pervasive physician shortages. Following are three keys to addressing the physician recruiting challenge.
1. Skilled Recruiters
There is an art and science to recruiting physicians, and both take time to learn. Even with all the recent technological advances in communication, physician recruiting requires a person who has the knowledge and sophistication to talk to doctors and interest them in opportunities that they would not have considered by just looking at a job posting.
In that sense, physician recruiting is analogous to executive recruiting. In both cases, recruiters are dealing with well-trained people in positions of power where the stakes are high. Effective physician recruiters are able to coordinate a team of stakeholders that may include a hospital administrator, board members, medical directors and others, and help ensure agile communications and a uniform message are in place before the search even begins. Good recruiters have the wherewithal to help lay the groundwork for a successful search by clarifying candidate parameters, helping craft a competitive incentive package and ensuring a rapid response back to candidates.
They also are persuasive enough to get on the phone with a physician, who at first is likely to be a complete stranger, and convince that person to leave their community, uproot their children from school, and relocate to a new practice -- a daunting task. To be successful, a skilled recruiter must have a positive, hard-working personality and enough knowledge of medicine and how it is practiced to gain a physician’s trust and respect. Whether it is an in-house recruiting professional or a consultant working for a firm such as Merritt Hawkins, the training and the skill-set of the individual recruiter is of primary importance.
2. A Variety of Resources
Getting the right recruiter in place is step one, but even a good recruiter will have difficulty being consistently successful without the right resources. Long gone are the days of the cold call list, as information technology has impacted physician recruiting more than anything else over the last decade. Cell phones have replaced home phones and email/text have become the new normal. The speed and ease of messaging candidates has helped offset the fact that candidates don’t like to answer anonymous phone calls.
In order to deliver results, healthcare facilities need to invest in multiple forms of outreach to ensure candidate flow, including online job boards, web postings and social media. However, these channels are mostly targeted to candidates who are actively searching for a new opportunity. In order to catch the passive candidates, it’s essential to have a database with thousands of physicians to call/email through. Direct mail is another great way to attract the passive candidate, as physicians respond to letters that pique their interest. In today’s highly competitive physician market, a suite of sourcing capabilities is vital to identifying the right candidates.
3. An Effective System
Physician recruiting calls for flexibility but it also requires a sequential, step-by-step process. This process begins well before the first email or letter is sent to prospective candidates and before the first interview is set. The foundation of a successful search is a carefully built consensus among all the stakeholders regarding what type of candidates are being sought, the incentive package, communications channels and the decision-making process. An opportunity should only be “taken to the market” when a there is agreement on candidate parameters and incentives, and when response turnaround times and a sense of urgency are built into the process. Once candidates are identified, having a plan in place allows for ease of communication, attention to detail and the responsiveness needed to bring the search to a successful close.
Given these three components, physician recruiting becomes a much more manageable task, and qualified candidates can be consistently secured even in an era when physicians are in increasingly short supply.
Tom Florence is Senior Vice President of Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician search firm and a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AHS). He can be reached at Tom.Florence@amnhealthcare.com.
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