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A Wise Investment

Rick Johnson, for HealthLeaders News, September 27, 2007

With the downward pressure of reimbursement cuts and the continual need to reinvest in technology, a medical group nowadays has plenty of excuses to slash expenses. But for Radiological Associates of Sacramento Medical Group, investing in employee programs was part of a long-term organizational strategy.

The 2007 Medical Group winner of HealthLeaders Media's Top Leadership Teams in Healthcare, their program consists of 750 employees and more than 70 physicians spread out over 15 diagnostic and nuclear imaging centers and seven radiation oncology offices.

"We basically have two main customers: patients and referring physicians," says Fred Gaschen, executive vice president of Radiological Associates. "We began focusing on our employees as a way of improving relationships with both types of customers."

In recent years, Gaschen and the rest of the leadership team made Radiological Associates an employer of choice among the region's healthcare professionals. Besides providing generous and competitive compensation, Gaschen points to these investments that enhance employee recruitment and retention efforts:

  • Tools to efficiently do their jobs
  • Ongoing training opportunities
  • A pleasant work environment
  • Open communication with senior management

These items might sound obvious--but then think back to a job that you hated. I bet at least one of these things was missing. The medical group's refocus on employees began in 2003 with an employee survey that placed Radiological Associates in the top 10 percent of healthcare employers. But the senior team decided to use the finding as a benchmark to improve upon. Managers engaged staff to develop a culture in which everyone attempts to enhance the work environment and communicate with managers and senior leaders when processes need to be changed.

It's a philosophy that starts from the top, says Gaschen. "I'm glad I work in the type of environment where the physician owners allow the leadership team to work together and do our jobs," he says. "And we pass that along. We prioritize and set goals, but we let supervisors and employees find the best paths to get the work done."

The close teamwork and willingness to invest paid off, Gaschen says. When employees were surveyed again in 2006, ratings had gone up in all of the 44 survey categories. The RAS leadership team has lowered turnover in an industry where 25 percent to 35 percent turnover isn't uncommon, and it has reduced its number of locums employees from 14 to two.

Note: I will be in Chicago working with other HealthLeaders Media editors to bring you daily coverage of the Top Leadership Teams in Healthcare conference, October 11 and 12. If you want to attend the event yourself, there's still time to register for the conference.

Rick Johnson is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at

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