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The Importance of Targeted Selection in Physician Employment

February 10, 2011
The traditional methods of recruiting and selecting physicians to join an organization simply aren’t adequate in the face of healthcare’s new challenges.  If hospitals want to see the return on their investment, and physicians want to have a successful and rewarding career, we need to do a better job of ensuring a good fit.  We need to bring in physicians who are not only good clinicians but who are good communicators, strong leaders and capable collaborators.  There’s a wonderful article on this subject in the Harvard Business Review by Dr. Thomas H. Lee.

These skills are important, obviously, when it comes to working closely with hospitals to create innovative care delivery models, improve the quality of care and reduce costs.  New research published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicates that some of these same skills are also better for patient care.

“Simply put, when doctors respond empathetically at appropriate times, their patients tend to be happier, more trusting in their physicians and more compliant,” explains an article about the study in WebMD.  Unfortunately, the study also points out that little attention is paid to developing these skills during medical training.  We’d add that there is no way to assess functional competencies like this one in the traditional physician selection process.

Other industries would never bring someone into a position with, essentially, an executive salary structure and the ability to make or break a program or division, without assessing these important competencies.  Effective, efficient tools exist to help the hospital and physician better understand the potential for success.  It’s time that we start applying these strategies.  The stakes are too high to leave it to chance.  Some organizations have dabbled in using more progressive physician selection processes but the approach has been disjointed and more than a bit off the mark.  It’s time to bring the science of selection to the physician hiring process.

We need to take a more measured, deliberate approach to building an employed medical staff.   We need to apply the tools that already exist to ensure that each physician we add to the team has goals that align with the hospital’s, that the hospital commits the right resources to helping him or her succeed, and that the candidate has the behavioral skills and competencies that will make them a strong long term partner.  Technology and progressive processes like ‘lean’ are helpful to improving our healthcare system, but they have limited potential if we don’t select and develop physicians who can exhibit empathy, demonstrate real leadership and work collaboratively with hospital administration and other providers.  This will happen when experienced HR professionals are brought into the physician hiring and development discussion.

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.