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12 Keys to Creating an Exceptional Practice Opportunity - Part I

Merritt Hawkins Team | January 20, 2018

Practice a Recruiting Success

How to Make Your Practice a Recruiting Success

By Mark Smith

Hospitals, medical groups, Federally Qualified Health Centers and other facilities typically face impediments of one kind or another which challenge their ability to recruit physicians.

Some facilities may be located in remote areas that historically are medically underserved. Others may have a prohibitively high cost of living, or feature weather extremes that make it difficult to generate physician interest.

These and similar local geographic, social and economic factors fall into the category of things health- care facilities cannot control. They are what they are.

What healthcare facilities can control to a significant extent is the quality of practice they offer physicians. Since physicians will be spending most of their time in the practice, and derive their professional satisfaction from it, it is imperative that the practice be as appealing as possible. Due to the profound changes taking place in healthcare today, many physicians are looking for a place where the “grass is greener,” so it is particularly important to offer a practice opportunity that stands out from others that physician candidates may be seeking.

Following are some of the keys to creating an optimum practice opportunity:

  • Be open, fair and remunerative. These three terms sum up the characteristics of a positive practice environment. Communication, work policies and expectations in the practice should be open, formal and informal, and easily understood. The methods by which physicians are evaluated and rewarded should be fair and consistent for all parties. Compensation should be reasonably competitive for the specialty based on local and even national standards.
  • Have a vision. Physicians in this time of historic transition need to know where the practice is heading in the short-term and the long-term. Will it embrace new value-based reimbursement models? Will there be mergers or partnerships with other larger entities? Will it incorporate team-based medicine, population health management, the patient-centered medical home, or become part of an Accountable Care Organization? It is important to have a roadmap showing physicians where the practice is now and where it is going.
  • Formalize expectations. In addition to knowing where the practice is heading, physicians need to know exactly what will be expected of them. In the interest of being “open,” let candidates know in writing the hours they will be expected to keep, number of patients they will be expected to see, types of patients, governance responsibilities, and additional expectations. Confusion over expectations (a feeling of “this is not what I thought it would be”) is the primary cause of physician turnover in Merritt Hawkins’ experience.
  • Be flexible. Physicians are becoming more diverse in many ways and one practice size may not fit all, particularly when it comes to schedules. Part-time schedules and other flexible practice options are becoming more important to physicians than most others factors, including compensation.
  • Employ the physician. Merritt Hawkins’ 2015 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives indicates that approximately 95% of our physician recruiting assignments in 2014/15 featured a setting in which the physician was to be employed, either by a hospital, medical group, FQHC, academic center, urgent care center or other facility. This is a profound reversal of the situation 27 years ago when Merritt Hawkins was established and the overwhelming number of searches we conducted featured an independent, private practice setting. The majority of physicians today are seeking such settings, and it is difficult to recruit consistently without offering this option.
  • Make compensation clear. While the practice should be remunerative, as stated above, how physicians are compensated today is just as important as how much they are compensated. The key is to keep compensation formulas clear, understandable, and logical. Increasingly, some portion of physician compensation today is linked to value-based metrics such as patient satisfaction scores, adherence to treatment protocols, and others. These are balanced against volume-based metrics such as Relative Value Units (RVUs), net revenue, and patients seen that are needed to keep physicians productive. Finding that balance is difficult, to say the least, but necessary in today’s practice environment.

Part 2 of this series will be posted next week so stay tuned!

Mark Smith is the President of Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician search firm and a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AHS). He can be reached at

If you are interested in learning more about our advanced practice and physician staffing services, request an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

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