Onboarding: The Engagement Tool for New Physician Recruits

By: Allison McCarthy, MBA

Recent client work has enabled us to gather feedback from new physician recruits about their experience entering their hiring organization.  Based on what we’ve heard, we have some work to do to ensure we have them become fully engaged.

Lackluster Orientations

At the outset, new physicians feel they need an adequate orientation to operational policies and procedures; billing and coding practices (recent trainees as well as seasoned physicians believe they can never get enough about coding), as well as IT and even communications systems (phones, paging, email).  Unfortunately, many only experience hospital’s “new employee” orientation, which seems irrelevant to them as physician employees.  Physicians want a more customized orientation that addresses their specific needs as clinicians, business developers and colleagues.  Conducing formal sessions – as a group or individually – is fine, but they should not be held multiple days in a row.  Several abbreviated sessions across a couple of weeks are preferable.  Providing new physicians with too much, too fast, limits their ability to retain the learning and adapt it to their practice style.

Setting is Not Ready

Walking into a practice setting that’s not properly “outfitted” is like arranging a singer to perform a concert and not having available the stage, microphones, back-up musicians or audience.  It sends a message that “you didn’t care enough,” or worse “you don’t know how to manage a physician practice.”  Either way, your credibility takes a blow.

This is particularly unsettling for new physicians who are launching a new service or opening a new office location.  When hospitals wait to ensure the physician contract is signed before starting the actual practice build-out, they often don’t have enough time to get all of the pieces put together.  And, when the responsibility is assigned to someone with a full plate, they often can’t get it done on top of everything else.

[box]According to the B/Mc/OAR 2013 survey, only 16% of respondents customize their onboarding approach for practicing physicians versus recently trained physicians and only 35% offer different approaches for primary care versus specialty physicians.  [/box]

Limited People Support

Physicians also feel the need for the “soft” stuff.  Having meaningful interactions with leaders (of the practice, group/department and hospital) and making social connections (with colleagues and staff who take an interest in their family/personal concerns) helps new physicians better connect to the regional offerings and make better adjustments on a personal level.  In addition, physicians new to a practice need a mentor who can offer guidance about specific work processes, collaborate on clinical matters and provide the support to enhance skills and facilitate growth as a practitioner.

Referral Development

While new specialists will make some connections when rounding on hospital patients or at medical staff events, they often require more help in generating new patient referrals, especially given the growing use of hospitalists.  Someone needs to make the necessary introductions and facilitate referral development discussions.  New referring physicians also raise this concern as they recognize they have an obligation to retain referrals within the system.

There’s a big difference between an oriented physician and an engaged physician.  A new clinician can become familiar with the operational pieces and parts. However, they will feel just like a “cog in the wheel” until they begin to make solid interpersonal connections, fulfill their professional aspirations and feel they fit well into the over-arching mission, vision and culture of the larger organization.