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It's a Team Sport: 3 Ways to Improve Physician Selection and Reduce Turnover

December 17, 2015


It’s football season again – the ultimate team sporfootballt, so a blurb this week in Modern Healthcare caught my eye:

"Medicine's become a team sport, and a lot of physicians don't want to be part of a team."

This was a statement by John Fortney, chief medical officer of Adena Health System, Chillicothe, Ohio, as he acknowledged there has been a fair amount of turnover among the group's physicians in recent months. It made me think of a few high-priced, high-profile, talented NFL receivers who were recently released because they aren’t team players.

The cost of the loss and replacement of a single primary care physician starts at $250,000. The real cost is over $1 Million. Here’s what we’ve found with regard to physician hiring:

  • The recruiting and selection process has not changed in 20 years. It’s all based on credentials and informal interviews.
  • Hospitals are surprised when physicians leave and they simply go back and do the same thing again.
  • No one looks at the financial implications of this cycle. They are too focused on rushing to fill the spot again.

A few interesting points, from the New England Journal of Medicine Career Center:

  • A common contributor to turnover is the mismatch between physician expectations and organizational culture or rules.
  • 54% of physicians leave their group within the first five years.
  • Practice issues cause physicians to leave 30% of the time, the most cited reason (not compensation). Physicians often leave due to disappointment over “broken promises” about patient volume and administrative support.

What does all of this mean?

  1. These are $200,000 to $1 Million positions. In other industries, we apply far more rigor to the selection process for positions of this import, because we’ve done the math and know the real cost. It is MORE expensive in the long run to move hastily and make a bad hire – even when you are desperate to fill that difficult specialty position.
  2. Do the detailed work to ensure an alignment of expectations and goals. Don’t rely on the recruiter to do this. If you see a disconnect, address it on the front end. Don’t wait for the physician to knock on your door after two years to tell you she’s leaving.
  3. Finally – use structured behavioral interviews and executive style assessments to understand whether the candidate who looks good on paper is that “team player” you are looking for.

There are hiring tools to ensure that the candidate fits your culture. Consider the last physician you brought in that didn’t work out because of his personality or behavior, or expectations simply didn’t fit your organization. What would you have given to know this before making the offer?

Check out the Healthcare Hiring eBook to learn more about issues affecting HR in the healthcare industry.

Healthcare Hiring Essentials

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.