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What if NFL Teams Hired Players Like Hiring in Healthcare?

December 17, 2015

In football-crazy Pittsburgh, the Steelers’ season never ends but kicks into high gear with the annual NFL draft. A year’s worth of scouting and data analysis culminates in two days where the team drafts seven or so college players in the hope that a few make the squad and perhaps 1 or 2 have long-term success. Fortunately for us fans, the Steelers have, over the years, done a pretty solid job picking talent. (Unlike the Cleveland Browns who we love to make fun of!)

Let’s compare the Steelers to a typical hospital:

  • The Steelers generates almost $200 Million
    annually. A hospital may generate as much as a $1 Billion.
  • The business models and salary structures aren’t that different. The bulk of the Steelers’ salary costs are tied up in 45 employees and even among those, a select handful account for much of it. A hospital has more employees, but employed physicians, some of them highly paid specialists, make up a substantial portion of the salary costs.
  • In both cases, the highly paid talent generates the revenue. The players put fans in the seat and are the reason for the TV contracts. The physicians provide the high revenue services.

How do you think rabid Steeler fans would react to the following NFL draft strategy:

  1. A current player tells Head Coach Mike Tomlin, “Hey – I played with a linebacker in college who would love to play here.”
  2. The front office flies the candidate to Pittsburgh, shows him around, introduces him to the coaching staff and asks, “So, tell me about yourself and what kind of football shoes you like to wear?” (That’s the interview).
  3. The candidate seems nice enough – presentable, articulate, and looks like a football player.
  4. The front office calls the college coach to confirm that the guy played there.
  5. No review of his college game film. Never have him run a 40-yard dash, do a push up or do any drills. Never quiz him on football knowledge.
  6. Draft him and pay him a base salary of $750,000.

Would you be surprised to find out that he doesn’t really like to practice and when he does, he shows up late. He shows up for training camp out of shape, doesn’t really like “team sports” or work well with others, is slower than your largest offensive lineman and really always wanted to play wide receiver, so he doesn’t want to play defense (which may be good because he couldn’t tackle a 5th grader).

Sound absurd? The coach and general manager would not survive this debacle. Not in Pittsburgh, that’s for sure. It’s not a stretch, however, to say that we just described the physician “selection” process. Yet we are surprised when employed physicians underperform, display disruptive behavior, or tell you in their second year that this wasn’t what they expected.

It’s really time to re-think this approach. There is too much on the line. What’s your draft strategy?

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.