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6 Ways to Reduce Physician Turnover

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, December 12, 2011

 

Healthcare leaders put an enormous amount of time and money into physician recruitment, yet retention is often still an afterthought. If CFOs analyze the cost of turnover, they will likely find that millions of dollars are being lost due to poor physician retention.

Fortunately, correcting the problem isn't necessarily costly, though it does require building an accountable team and an action plan. Here's how Baystate Health in western Massachusetts tackled turnover and reduced it by a third in one year.

Baystate Health, a not-for-profit, three-hospital integrated delivery system serving much of western New England, identified physician recruitment as a key strategic need a while ago. On average, the system fills 60 physician slots annually, at a relatively low cost of $15,000 per recruit.

The organization's six-person in-house recruiting department has paid off when it comes to quickly finding and filling positions. But the team's success meant others in the organization didn't recognize another growing problem: physician turnover.

"We have a well-oiled physician recruiting team, so when we'd lose a doctor, we get a call saying basically, 'I want to order another physician,' says John Larson, Baystate's director of physician and advance practitioner recruitment.

In 2009, he says, "We're hearing about the physician shortage, though not yet experiencing it, and I'm thinking this situation has got to change. It's going to get harder to find physicians."

That year, Baystate's turnover hit 9.2%—far above the national average at the time, which was 5.9%, according to the American Medical Group Association. Even worse, says Larson, 39% of the physicians leaving the organization had been there for less than three years; the AMGA national average was 46% at that time.

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