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Recruiting the Right Physicians

Hugo J. Finarelli, Jr., PhD, August 13, 2009

There are several dimensions to consider when evaluating whether a potential physician recruit will be a good fit for the hospital or the community, including:

Commitment to quality and service. Placing a high priority on a culture of quality and safety will help a hospital attract and retain the best physicians. By the same token, physicians who are not willing to adhere to the highest standards of quality and patient service will not be comfortable with the scrutiny they will face. Physicians unwilling to be measured against clinical benchmarks and patient satisfaction norms will not be good additions to the medical staff.

Commitment to vision and values. Successful healthcare organizations have strategic plans that include a well-articulated mission, values designed to shape behavior at all levels, and a compelling vision of what the organization seeks to accomplish within the next three to five years. New physician recruits should embrace the organization's values and be willing to make an enthusiastic commitment to the organization's future.

Comfort with physician colleagues and practice expectations. Recruits should be told about the makeup of the existing medical staff such as what percent of physicians are in primary care versus specialty care, what percent are board certified, what percent are fellowship trained, how many are recognized as ?top docs? in the area, how many are nearing retirement, and where the most respected physicians went to medical school and received their residency training.

Recruits should be given additional information about other physicians in their specialty, such as how long they've practiced in the community, whether their practices are accepting new patients, their prevailing work ethic (e.g., the size of the average patient panel, the number of admissions they generate, the number of surgeries or other procedures they perform, and the extent of their on-call responsibilities), and whether they attract patients from outside the service area or whether patients leave the community for care. The hospital should also facilitate face-to-face meetings with established young physicians to help the recruit understand the dynamics of establishing new referral relationships and building a practice in the community.

Enlisting staff and community support
Many examples exist of new physician recruits unable to build a sustainable practice in a community, despite a demonstrated community need for physicians in their specialty. Sometimes, this occurs because one or more physicians on the existing medical staff subtly discourage referrals to the newcomer for fear they will lose patients and practice income. Other times, the physician simply does not become well-known in the community.

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