How to attract and hire the best new physician

David DoyleDavid Doyle

If you’re thinking of adding a new physician to your practice, be advised that the competition today is fierce and getting fiercer -- especially for primary care doctors.

Changes in healthcare economics are pushing hospitals and healthcare systems to prioritize physician employment, which means that private practices must now compete for scarce talent with organizations who have much deeper pockets. Meanwhile, many younger physicians are choosing to seek hospital employment because it seems to offer more income security and work-life balance than working in a smaller medical practice does.

To improve your chances of landing a great candidate, try these tips:

Accentuate the positives about your practice. Start by listing all of the great aspects of working in your practice, and then plan to accentuate those things during your recruiting process. Today’s young physicians are very mission-driven and have a strong sense of altruism. So you’ll have an advantage if you can tap into that desire. As part of a recent survey, physicians were asked why they wanted to become doctors. Almost half of the younger doctors (42 percent) cited “helping underserved populations” as being a key motivator. Ask your current employees and other physicians what they like about working in your practice. Maybe it’s some unique aspect of the services you provide. It might be the predominant lifestyle in your community or its low cost of living. Or it might just be the great people and family atmosphere in your office.   

Outline the desired qualities of your ideal candidate. A physician recruiting firm will not only help you find potential candidates, but also give you some advice about the recruitment process. However, you need to set some parameters first. On the same sheet of paper where you listed the best attributes of your practice, now list your ideal candidate’s attributes. This is not a job description; it’s a description of the person who gets the job. What sort of individual would best fit in with your practice’s culture? How should he or she think about the work? What would you like this physician’s patients to say about him or her?  

Understand what younger doctors are looking for today. Physician recruiters have shared that today’s younger physicians -- those under age 40 -- are more concerned with having a good work-life balance than previous generations of physicians have ever been. They don’t want to work 80 hours a week and be on-call two weekends out of four just because it’s part of the traditional “dues-paying” process toward achieving partnership in a practice. They want to watch their kids’ Little League games; they want predictable yet flexible schedules with as little on-call time as possible; and they value income security over the promise of a bigger payday in the future. Therefore, you need to think creatively about scheduling and compensation issues. (Conversations with existing physicians should include these subjects as well.) Your senior physicians may expect the “new kid” to take the bulk of the call schedule for the first few years. After all, that’s what they did. But times have changed. Likewise, take a look at your compensation plan: Can you soften the edges of your “eat what you kill” payment strategy? Can you offer incentives to potential candidates, such as student loan repayment? 

Make sure your office is up to date. Does your practice have (and use) an EHR system? Does it have a patient portal? Does the website for your practice have a clean design? Is it comprehensive, easily navigable and mobile-optimized? Younger physicians are not afraid of information technology, but they are afraid to work for a practice that’s fallen behind in today’s technology-savvy times.   

Recruit the whole family. During the recruiting process, make sure you actively include the spouses of your physician prospects. Is the office picnic coming up? Invite the physician and his or her spouse (and kids, if any) to attend. Take them somewhere nice for dinner with your senior physicians (preferably with their spouses as well). In short, you should make them feel welcome -- and wooed. In addition, your recruiting materials should include information about the local schools, real estate data, neighborhood association information, and even information about local recreational activities and restaurants. Your local chamber of commerce is a great place to start gathering these materials. Offer to connect a candidate and his or her spouse with local resources to help them get settled into the community. Can you refer them to a great realtor? Recommend a trustworthy daycare provider?

Recruiting new physicians is one of the toughest things a medical practice has to do. But if you plan ahead and emphasize the positive, know what you’re looking for, seek outside help when necessary, and do your best to woo potential candidates, you’ll be sure to find -- and hire -- the perfect physician for your office.

David Doyle is CEO of CRT Medical Systems, a medical billing company based in Novi, Mich. He founded the company in 1981. The firm currently ranks as one of the top 100 billing companies in the United States. Prior to starting CRT, Doyle worked as a lead programmer for large corporations and governmental agencies. He also created companies for IT staffing, programming and enterprise software sales.