Few topics are of more importance to hospital boards than physician staffing — especially in today's healthcare climate, when the work done by doctors has been shown to make up the majority of hospital revenue (as we recently noted here at The Staff Care Insider).
Now, a new white paper from the thought leaders at Staff Care seeks to help hospital board members and trustees give physician staffing the consideration it requires. And with decades of experience in the physician staffing and recruitment game, Staff Care is uniquely qualified to do just that.
> View or Download: Staff Care's Hospital Trustee Guide to Physician Relations, Recruiting, Retention & Locum Tenens
According to our experts, successful physician staffing is comprised of three basic elements:
- physician relations
- physician recruiting
- physician retention
"As the hospital considers its role in these areas, it is necessary to first develop an understanding of the current physician market," the authors write. "Who are doctors today? How many are there? What are their concerns? In what settings do they practice? How are they now being affected by health reform and shifting market dynamics? With multiple changes pending this year and beyond, how is their role in the health system likely to change?"
Because grasping the fundamental answers to the above questions can be as complex as the healthcare industry itself, Staff Care's white paper attempts to break them down into segments that are more easily comprehended and addressed.
"Despite the many technological and policy changes that have occurred in healthcare in recent years, physicians remain at the center of the health system," state the authors. "An examination of hospital physician relations, recruiting and retention begins with an acknowledgement of this important fact.
Hospital Board Guide to Physician Staffing, Part 1
The Physician Market
This first part of the white paper centers on the need to understand the nature of today's physician market in terms of who the doctors actually are, how many are practicing, what their concerns are, and similar questions.
Of course, the growing physician shortage has considerable bearing upon the answers to these questions. Hospital board members "should be aware that doctors today are in increasingly short supply," the authors note, pointing out that while the general U.S. population "increased by 36% from 1980 to 2010, the number of physicians trained in the U.S. increased by only 8%."
On top of that, the nation's doctors "are not distributed evenly throughout the population, and consequently shortages tend to be concentrated in rural or inner city areas or in central regions of the country away from the coasts. Physicians and their spouses often locate to communities where other professionals live, choosing a practice based on lifestyle considerations rather than patient demand for their services in a particular area."
Hospital Board Guide to Physician Staffing, Part 2
Physician Recruiting and Retention
In Part Two, the authors focus on "the best strategies for recruiting and retaining physicians," a question that includes consideration of what federal physician regulations must hospitals comply with, what the latest trends in physician compensation are, and how hospital board members can "ensure their facilities are well positioned to recruit and retain the most appropriate physician candidates."
"For many hospitals, the physician recruiting process is no longer an ad hoc endeavor," the authors state. "Rather, it is an ongoing process which incorporates physician retention and physician recruiting in a continuous cycle."
With that in mind, the physician staffing and recruitment process is then broken into 14 steps, including:
- Market Knowledge. "In general, it is a buyer’s market in physician recruiting today, as physicians in most specialties are able to choose from a number of different opportunities."
- Physician Retention. "Because physicians are in such short supply, the best way to 'recruit' physicians is to hold on to those you already have."
- Cost/Benefits. "Hospitals must be more financially competitive as the candidate pool gets tighter, and must spend more to identify potential recruits."
- Strategic Staff Plan. A strategic medical staff plan "should be a proactive effort rather than a reactive one," allowing hospital board members to map out "physician recruiting needs over a one to five year period based on objective data."
- Compliance. "It is prudent to draft a Hospital Board Resolution on Physician Recruitment stating the hospital’s intention to ... comply with federal guidelines when recruiting physicians."
- The Recruiting Team. Our experts recommend that a hospital's physician recruiting team "should include one to two board members, staff physicians, the physician recruiter, administrators of local medical groups, and hospital department representatives." The team should be led by the hospital's CEO, to demonstrate to candidates your "high level of commitment to the process."
- Opportunity Analysis. "Before seeking candidates for a particular opening, a written analysis of the opportunity should be prepared."
- Candidate Parameters. "Unfortunately, many hospitals jeopardize their recruitment chances by insisting on very narrow candidate parameters. For some hospital executives, the ideal candidate remains a young, Ivy League trained physician with movie star looks."
- The Incentive Package. Physicians often know perfectly know what's competitive in terms of compensation in today’s market, "so an incentive package has to reflect market realities" to attract their interest.
- Candidate Sourcing. "Hospitals should employ a variety of candidate sourcing techniques, including postings on physician employment sites, journal advertising, personal letter campaigns, and attendance at physician conventions, thereby casting as wide a net as possible. Social media venues such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are gaining importance as candidate sourcing tools for younger physicians."
- Candidate Screening. A thorough screening process "eliminates inappropriate candidates and reduces unproductive interviews," amounting to a savings in "time, effort and money."
- The Interview. "When the interview is properly arranged, the candidate will already know the terms of the offer, the call schedule in the practice, payer mix, work hours, anticipated patient volume, path to partnership, and associated details. In turn, the hospital will know the candidate’s professional background, personal interests, family situation, etc."
- Closing. "During the interview candidates should be told that a timely decision is expected so that, one way or the other, the recruitment process can remain on track."
- Follow Up. Even after a physician signs a contract, the hospital "must stay in continual contact, assisting the doctor with licensure, credentialing and relocation," our authors write. "Some hospitals lose energy once the initial courting process is over, which can lead to candidate fall off. Nothing is secure until the candidate is in the community, seeing patients."
Hospital Board Guide to Physician Staffing, Part 3
Emerging Physician Staffing Patterns and the Role of Temporary Physicians
The final — yet perhaps most important — segment of Staff Care's physician staffing white paper deals with the role of temporary or locum tenens staffing in physician recruitment today.
As the authors note, "who physicians are and how they practice are not the same as they were ten years ago," and a big part of these changes center on the rise of locum tenens staffing.
"Based on the number of physicians Staff Care places annually, and our knowledge of the industry, we estimate that some 45,000 or more physicians will work locum tenens in 2016, up from about 28,000 six years ago," the authors write. "Should an additional five percent of the nation’s physician choose to work locum tenens in the next one to three years (considerably less than the 9 percent indicated above), the number of locum tenens physicians would more than double."
What does that mean for hospital boards and trustees formulating a long-term physician staffing and recruitment plan? Over the last few years, "the use of locum tenens physicians has become the norm rather than the exception for most health care facilities, rural or urban. Today, it is unusual to find a hospital or larger medical group that does not utilize at least one locum tenens physician during the course of a year."
The white paper cites a survey indicating that most facilities use locum tenens physicians as fill-ins between permanent doctors, to cover for vacationing staff, and to meet increasing patient demand. Some facilities also use locums physicians "to fill in during peak usage times," a practice that "may be somewhat more common among urgent care centers using locum tenens physicians than other facilities, as they react to patient demand due to peak flu season, vacation season or other seasonal events."
"The main benefit of locum tenens physicians, cited by 70 percent of those surveyed, is to allow for continued treatment of patients. Locum tenens physicians can maintain services and generate revenue during hard to fill shifts or peak usage seasons. By allowing permanent staff flexibility or time-off, locum tenens physicians also can help prevent physician burn-out."
The white paper goes into much greater detail, making full use of Staff Care's decades of locum tenens expertise to provide supporting data on the benefits of leveraging locums professionals to help maintain successful physician staffing levels.
"The ability of a hospital to effectively work with, recruit and retain physicians often determines the extent to which it can fulfill its mission to provide quality care and to remain financially viable," the authors add. "Physician relations, recruiting and retention therefore are key priorities for virtually every hospital in the United States."
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If you'd like to discuss your physician staffing needs with a Staff Care specialist, please contact us here. You can also submit a staffing request directly via this form.
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