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How Physician Employees Affect Leadership Dynamics

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, November 15, 2010
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The physician employee has increasingly become a prevalent and often desirable compensation model in many hospitals across the country.

The trend provides an excellent opportunity for a hospital's senior executives and clinical leaders to build trust and cooperation by working together to successfully project the need for new physicians, and to recruit them.

Blake Dye, CEO and president of 45-staffed-bed Henry County Hospital in New Castle, IN, which has 35 employed physicians on staff, says he relies heavily on the doctors' help throughout the process, from identifying need to acclimating recruits.

"We do an update to the medical staff development plan every year. We look at numbers and volume and we engage the thoughts from the physicians," Dye says. "We talk very specifically to our physicians and try to present our take on what is going on and engage them in the conversation so they don't feel like they're being put upon."

When physician candidates are identified, they are contacted by senior physicians at Henry County, who answer questions about expectations, qualifications, and compensation, and assess the candidate's character.

"From a clinical perspective, in trying to deal with a good clinical fit, we plug the doctors into that process immediately," says Dye, who is also chairman of the Indiana Hospital Association.

Involving established physicians at the hospital in the recruiting and selection process is as much common courtesy as it is common sense, and it helps to avert problems down the road.

"They are going to be working with the new physicians. They are the ones who are going to rub shoulders with them at the practices, and teach them about processes, and the electronic medical records, and improving quality," Dye says. "They all need to be on the same page, and if they are not, I've created a miserable situation for them to work in day after day—and that is not the environment we try to create."
Ron Davis, CEO at the 164-staffed-bed Titus Regional Medical Center in Mount Pleasant, TX, about 120 miles east of Dallas, anticipates that the ban against hospital-employed physicians in the Lone Star State will soon be lifted, possibly by 2011. If the prohibition is overturned, Davis will be ready. "From a hospital viewpoint, it would be very helpful if I could employ physicians with approval from the board and the medical staff," he says.

Nonprofit healthcare corporations in Texas can form physician cooperatives, and Davis says many of the processes needed to successfully recruit and retain physicians for these cooperatives can be applied to the physician employees.

It has to start with transparency, he says, and open honest dialogue that allows physicians either on staff or being recruited to understand that their input is valued and acted upon.

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