Healthcare News & Insights

What hospitals must consider when hiring doctors

Hospitals are directly employing more physicians than ever before. And while this may be helpful for patient outcomes in many ways, hospital executives need to keep several details in mind when making these arrangements with doctors. 

businessman meeting doctorsAccording to a recent article from Navigant Healthcare written by Managing Director Paul Keckley, over 200,000 doctors in the country now work directly for hospitals, instead of being in private practice.

And 75% of medical residents will begin their careers at large medical organizations, including hospitals and health systems.

3 big concerns

This means hospitals have many choices for hiring doctors. But as physician employment grows, some hospitals have been dealing with the “growing pains” of adding doctors to their payroll.

In particular, many healthcare executives have cited three major concerns when bringing on physician employees. Straight from a survey conducted by Navigant and the Healthcare Financial Management Association, those areas are:

  1. Operations. Healthcare executives are worried about how to stay efficient and profitable in the face of value-based payments and increasing costs due to technology demands and the addition of extra staff, including doctors.
  2. Compensation. As value-based payments become the norm for hospitals, many executives are struggling with how to pay their physicians. Should they be paid for performance, like the facility, or should they receive a set salary regardless of how well the hospital ranks?
  3. Recruitment. While more physicians are looking for hospital employment than ever, competition is fierce. Attracting and retaining top doctors is a major concern – especially since hospitals need to provide high-quality care to survive.

Questions to consider

To avoid issues with physician employment, hospitals looking to add new doctors, or keep the ones they’ve hired, need to make sure these issues are addressed by answering the following questions:

  • Why would a doctor want to work for our hospital? If your hospital’s achieved national rankings in a specific specialty or area of care, be sure to drive that point home in recruitment materials. Also note if your hospital’s performed well with alternative, value-based payment models, as that will attract high-quality doctors.
  • Do we have the proper tools in place to support doctors? This doesn’t just mean white coats and stethoscopes. Hospitals must have effective technology such as electronic health records (EHR) systems designed to help doctors do their jobs better – not act as a hindrance.
  • Does our compensation package measure up to that of our competitors? Once you’ve decided how you’ll pay on-staff physicians, your facility has to make sure the salary and benefits you’re offering are comparable to competing hospitals. Otherwise, your hospital won’t have enough incentives to attract the best doctors.
  • How do we empower doctors to do their best work? Doctors should be held accountable for their performance, but they should also be given the freedom to make the best medical decisions for patients without unnecessary interference. And they should also have a say in executive decisions that would affect patient care. A hospital that wants to attract and retain physicians should have a prominent physician leader involved in board and executive meetings.

Ultimately, as Keckley writes, “Employing physicians is not an end in itself. It’s a means toward building a physician enterprise that’s scalable, impactful and the centerpiece of a hospital’s transformation. Hospital leaders need to take a fresh look.”

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