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Physician Recruitment
Physician Engagement Strategies: The Role of Physician Liaisons

Bryan Chandler, Vice President of Business Development, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas

 

Physicians say that “feeling engaged” with a health care organization is crucial to job satisfaction, a finding documented consistently in survey research. And in a time of physician shortages and competition between hospitals and health systems to attract top physician talent, engagement can ultimately affect a doctor's decision to stay in their current position or seek a new one.

Improved participation and buy-in among physicians can generate inpatient and outpatient referrals and help bolster the hospital's image as a community-centered, leading-edge provider. When you engage physicians as partners, both parties benefit.

 

At Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, our physician engagement strategies include a robust physician relations program with these goals in mind. Service, accessibility, and accountability are among the program’s guiding principles.

 

A skilled physician liaison is the cornerstone of any effective physician engagement strategy. This role requires a motivated individual dedicated to the value of physician relationships – someone who possesses excellent follow-up and communication skills. Here are some tips to help you identify the best physician liaison candidates and set them up for success.

 

Hire the right person. This is a high-energy role. Excellent verbal and written communication skills are “must-haves” for a physician liaison. Knowledge of the market area and local dynamics, as well as an understanding of physician specialties, is critical to cultivate physician-to-physician and hospital-to-physician relationships. Your physician liaison will establish and maintain connections for professional referrals and follow up to close the loop on tasks. He or she must understand what’s expected, why it’s important, and be motivated to fulfill expectations. Your ideal candidate is a team player with a servant heart.

 

Create C-suite accessibility. A physician liaison needs ready access to C-suite leaders, including the CEO. It’s an integral component that can’t be overlooked. Physicians should feel their efforts are valued and appreciated, backed by a team of administrators including the liaison working together regularly on their behalf. Issues and concerns must be heard and resolved promptly.

 

Document activity and measure results. To monitor progress and recognize opportunities for improvement, the physician liaison should compile weekly summary reports. Documents should identify physician contacts, meetings, details on discussions, and follow-up actions.

 

Share physician operations/utilization reports. As valued team members, liaisons must have access to physician utilization reports and related operational data. They may be aware of the reasons why particular physician referral patterns have changed. Regular interaction with physicians can be useful in planning ahead. For instance, if a liaison learns a doctor will be on vacation for a month, sharing this news with hospital administrators and department managers would allow the hospital to plan ahead proactively, perhaps making adjustments in staffing.

 

Inform and educate physicians and physician office staff representatives about new hospital services or changes to existing services. Communicate personally with physicians and office staff members to clarify and reinforce any changes in policies or procedures. This builds trust, enhancing your engagement efforts.

 

Establish a solid working relationship with service line directors to address identified problems. It’s all about teamwork. Physician liaisons may not have the ability to solve a particular issue, but they can share concerns voiced by physicians with department managers and others who can handle the problem. Afterward, inform doctors that their concerns were indeed heard, addressed and solved.

 

Share the love. Encourage hospital department heads and managers to accompany physician liaison representatives on visits to physician offices. Say “thank you” to physicians and office staffs for their support. And think out of the box - always strive for better ways to communicate with your doctors. Create a culture to serve a common purpose.

 

Learn more about CHC Physician Alignment Strategies to enhance physician relationships.

Tags: Hospital-Physician Alignment, Physician Recruitment
Best Practices for Effective Physician On-Boarding

by Stephanie Hobson, Director of Physician Recruitment, CHC

 

You’ve successfully recruited the physician you need to serve your community. What comes next? The hiring process is just the first step in retaining these professionals you have worked so hard to recruit. Equally important is physician on-boarding — the process of familiarizing and orienting physicians to a new healthcare facility or practice, and to the culture of your organization. On-boarding introduces new physicians to the community, integrates them into the medical staff, helps them establish their practice and achieve a firm financial foundation in the first year.

 

The case for on-boarding

 

An effective on-boarding process can help retain physicians in an increasingly competitive and challenging environment. The candidate pool is shrinking and the number of medical students continues to decline. In the year 2020, the expected shortage of practicing physicians is estimated to be 91,000.

 

Physician replacement costs are significant. The average cost to turn over a physician is $1.2 million. This impacts hospital revenue and patients’ perceptions of care. Replacing the productivity of a retiring internist will require 1.6 younger physicians, according to a 2014 Truven Analytics study. A systematic, well-organized on-boarding process can increase retention (avoiding the costs associated with physician replacement), stabilize access to care, and reduce outward migration.

 

Lack of an organized on-boarding process has added ramifications: physicians could lose confidence in the hospital or their group by a perceived lack of interest in their success resulting from poor on-boarding; and a delayed practice ramp-up period would increase the time needed to see positive ROI on an income guarantee or employment.

 

On-boarding recommendations

 

Here are some best practice tips to improve the physician on-boarding process.

 

Create an effective on-boarding program customized to your facility. Survey existing physicians to obtain feedback about the current on-boarding program and create a small task force to outline an ideal state process. Assign project leaders to assemble support teams including community members and volunteers, and measure results.

 

Set up Phase I (signed agreement to orientation) and Phase II (orientation to 90 days) action plans.

  • Phase I should include the completion of credentialing and enrollment; weekly communication from a designated hospital liaison; and personal/family assistance, such as house hunting, connecting with local service providers (Internet, phone, etc.) and getting kids in school. Welcome the entire family to the community.
  • In Phase II, complete the orientation process and review guidelines and expectations; market physicians to the community and other providers; and help integrate the physician and their family into the community by linking them to resources, groups and organizations.

 Additional best practice tips include:

  • Integrate new providers into your culture. Tell them what makes your culture and mission unique. Explain your hospital/health system goals.
  • Ensure basic resources are provided ‘day 1,’ including a lab coat, prescription pad, an ID badge and a tour of the facility.
  • Give them time to set up their office and meet their team before they start seeing patients.
  • Bring in their spouse to help them fill out benefits elections.
  • Give them flu shots and vaccinations etc. to meet 100 percent of employee wellness goals.
  • Have hospital leaders visit/eat lunch with them during orientation.
  • Train them on the EMR/how to log in to email/how to access resources; have them complete education modules during orientation.
  • Assign an administrator as a point of contact for each new physician and have them meet regularly during the first year.
  • Send out a postcard to your primary and secondary service area introducing the new physician. Include photos, address, phone number, and a ’now accepting patients’ message.

Making it work

 

Physician on-boarding doesn’t “belong” to the CEO alone. It should be a shared responsibility across hospital leadership, HR, the group or physician the doctor is joining, physician leadership, community members such as Chamber representatives, and hospital Board members.

 

On-boarding is the benchmark for physician engagement. An effective process can reduce physician turnover and recruitment costs, establish continuity of care, increase hospital productivity, and positively affect patient and employee satisfaction scores.

 

Learn more about CHC Physician Recruitment Strategies for community hospitals.

Read the CHC Physician Recruitment services overview.

Tags: Hospital-Physician Alignment, Physician Recruitment, Strategic Direction
Healthcare reform – challenges and action steps for community hospitals

Hospitals are expected to implement new payment and delivery models now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But community hospitals may have difficulties transforming their organizations due to limited resources and other challenges.

 

CHC’s president and CEO Mike Williams spoke this month with Becker’s Hospital Review about the challenges facing community hospitals and immediate actions to take in order to weather current and future changes in healthcare.

 

The four main challenges are:

  • Revenue cycle. As Medicare reimbursement levels decline, community hospitals may suffer most because they serve a disproportionate number of Medicare and Medicaid patients. In addition, many community hospitals lack the clout to secure the best rates from managed care providers.
  • Access to capital. In part due to reduced reimbursement, community hospitals also lack access to capital. This prevents them from updating their facilities, which can affect patient volume and quality of care.
  • Physician recruitment. There’s a nationwide physician shortage, and on top of that, it can be difficult to attract primary care physicians and specialists to remote or rural areas.
  • Hospital-physician alignment. Community hospitals, like all hospitals, struggle to work cooperatively with medical staff to improve quality and lower costs.

 Six actions can be taken immediately to address these challenges:

  • Optimize internal operations. The goal is to provide care in a cost-effective manner with the best possible outcomes.
  • Benchmark performance against similar hospitals. Comparing clinical data can help identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Assess feasibility of independence. After making as many internal improvements as possible, community hospitals must assess the feasibility of remaining independent, now and in the future.
  • Consider partnerships. If internal improvements aren’t sufficient to compete in the marketplace, community hospitals should consider forming relationships with other organizations. When seeking a partner, community hospitals should make sure the hospital’s culture aligns with the prospective partner’s culture; define expectations upfront; and make clear what they must provide in return and the amount of control they will cede for the expected benefits of the partnership.
  • Ensure board involvement. The board may need to be educated about its responsibilities, including overseeing finances, clinical quality and strategy.
  • Collaborate with physicians and involve them in the hospital’s governance.

Read the full Becker's Hospital Review article.

  

If these health reform challenges sound all too familiar, CHC can help with operations assessment, board education, strategy development and, if necessary, partnership options. Call us today at 972.943.6400.

Tags: Affordable Care Act, Healthcare Reform , Hospital Board Advisory, Hospital-Physician Alignment, Independence, Operational Assessment , Patient Protection , Physician Recruitment, Strategic Direction

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