Barlow/McCarthy Blog

Taking the Long View on Physician Recruitment

Aug 08, 2017

By: Allison McCarthy, MBA |

The airlines have recently demonstrated some danger signs for physician recruitment. With their focus on filling airplanes versus the quality of the experience, a few carriers have damaged their reputations with the flying public. As one who flies regularly, I feel as though I’m just a widget moving through the air travel process rather than a customer to be satisfied. The airlines seem to be more concerned with volume than value. And customers are pushing back.

Physician recruitment may be on the same trajectory. With searches per recruiter reaching 30, 40, 50 per year, that increasing volume just means less time and attention available to bring value to individual candidates.

Recruiting a new physician is a big deal for any health care enterprise. Physician-generated revenue can range from a half-million to a few million annually. If we anchored our thinking in the potential to generate “millions” for the organization – if we successfully recruit and retain the physicians – I believe we would see the need to be more “high-touch” oriented.

How we interact with candidates during recruitment sets the stage for a potential long-term value proposition for the organization. Here are a few areas to consider.

  • Pre-search prep – how much time is spent in discovery to get the key differentiation details needed to pitch the opportunity? What benefits are you really offering physician candidates? Is that practice ready to represent the organization’s brand in the recruitment market?
  • Time invested with candidates – to really understand their needs and interests. While we may spend considerable time ensuring community fit with the physician and family, are we doing the same on the professional side? Likely there is room to dig deeper and learn more about their career goals and aspirations. What would it take to have them choose to practice with you versus a competitor? What are the key attributes most likely to hold them long-term?
  • Extending offers – rather than talking physicians through the offer, we email a document and ask them to sign and return. Then it can take weeks to prepare a contract – sent by an attorney more interested in protecting the organization than being a relationship-building partner.
  • Onboarding – that critical juncture when the organization’s return on investment needs to be managed. But unless responsibility for new physician onboarding is assigned, practice ramp-up and new physician satisfaction is at risk.

I’m challenging us to look at physician recruitment from a retention perspective – for its ability to attract the right talent that can bring long-term gain to the organization. We run the risk of going the way of the airlines – with high volume expectations and a low value approach. Physician recruitment needs a “high touch” orientation so sufficient time is spent working leads, having in-depth conversations with candidates and really considering potential long-term fit.

Consider the mix of physicians being pursued today. What are they worth long-term to the organization? If your physician recruitment approach has more of a “fill rate” orientation, then it may be heading down the same path as the airlines – volume over value.