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The Art of Recruiting and Retaining Physicians

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The challenge to medical practices is clear. Recruiting and retaining physicians during a current and looming shortage of healthcare professionals can be a daunting task.

The challenge to medical practices is clear. Recruiting and retaining physicians during a current and looming shortage of healthcare professionals can be a daunting task.

This challenge was recently recognized by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) in partnering with New York Life to offer medical practices resources in the form of executive benefit offerings that can be used to recruit and retain physicians.

“As medical practices seek to recruit and retain physicians in this highly competitive marketplace, it’s extremely useful to be able to extend additional benefits to providers,” said Susan L. Turney, MD, MS, FACP, FACMPE, MGMA’s president and chief executive officer at the time of the announcement.

Andrew Blum, director of clinician recruitment and relations for Reliant Medical Group, a multi-specialty physician group based in Worcester, MA, believes the shortage, and therefore challenge in recruiting and retaining physicians, stems from the move away from a fee-for-service environment.

“A lot of healthcare organizations are trying to retool themselves to more team-based care, where you’re not putting as much focus on the primary care physician,” Blum says. “So I think the shortage may just be reflective of the older, fee-for-service model.”

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Multi-faceted approach

Blum explains that Reliant does not own a hospital, but has very close relationships with hospitals. That affords the organization the opportunity of not having to worry about keeping beds full, or worrying about admissions.

“The future of healthcare is not only about patient satisfaction, but provider satisfaction,” he says. “Work/life balance is even more important these days. That allows not only for the physician to be happier, but for us to retain them, because they are working in an environment where they can thrive.”

Reliant also takes a multi-faceted approach to recruitment. Placing ads on web sites is certainly part of the strategy, but of more importance is establishing relationships within the community with their current providers, whom Blum says can be the organization’s best recruiters. That includes building relationships with local organizations representing nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

“When they’re happy, they’re talking about Reliant to their colleagues and potentially other systems when they go to conferences, as well as creating inroads with local residency programs and putting together informational opportunities so that residents can learn about the organization. It’s about creating true partnerships with the local community.”

Lean processes

Blum calls Reliant a “hybrid innovative organization” because in addition to seeing patients, there are also research and resident opportunities.

“You don’t need to be at a large academic institution to be able to work with residents; to work with the future leaders of healthcare,” he says. “We’d also rather physicians keep a smaller patient panel healthier and have the opportunity to be engaged in innovative efforts. For example, we’re in the process of integrating behavioral medicine into all of our primary care. That gives providers the opportunity to create, and to be part of something that’s just catching on.”

Blum says that Reliant is committed to lean processes, an approach made popular by Toyota on its assembly line. The focus is on the patient experience and the provider experience, and determining what will enable each to have the best experience possible. To that end, the organization’s practices have weekly lean meetings involving everyone from physicians and medical assistants to front office staff.

“It’s basically the concept of continual improvement, and not staying static,” Blum says. “If you’re constantly improving, you’re creating a better patient experience, and a better practice experience.”

Bottom line benefit

Blum says that providing high-quality care and preventive care have been the focus at Reliant for a long time. He believes that—in the face of changing healthcare models where many entities are scrambling to move away from the fee-for-service approach—this strategy is enabling the organization to fine-tune and perfect its operation.

Of course, recruiting at Reliant still comes with its share of challenges. But the organization manages to secure top-quality physicians, in part, because of its continual dedication to creating synergy between innovative care and contemporary payment models. That, he says, benefits both patients and medical staff.

“If you look at the cost of losing providers, it’s not just the financial cost,” he explains. “There can be huge access and operational disruptions within the practice. Patient satisfaction can go down. That really cements how important it is to bring in the right physician and make sure it’s the right opportunity for them. And allow them to be creative while setting them up for success over the long term.”


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