The Value Proposition: Meeting the Challenge to Attract and Retain Top Physicians

Updated on April 3, 2012

By Jim Moniz, MSFS

As a variety of economic, geographic and demographic conditions have resulted in physician shortages throughout the country, the challenge of attracting and just as critical retaining top physicians is poised to only get worse. As such, healthcare practices must employ specific physician recruitment and retention strategies that speak both to doctors as individuals, their role within the practice and to the practice as a whole.

Certainly, a competitive salary with a built in bonus plan is a key factor in attracting and retaining top notch physicians, specialists and surgeons. Every compensation dollar represents an investment by the medical practice that should produce a return – one measured both in physician commitment and increased productivity. Compensation strategies, however, must not only meet the needs of the medical group, but must also speak to the individual goals and dreams of the key physicians.  If a physician has a clear vision of the impact his/her performance has on the group performance, a vested interest in the organization’s success is developed, consequently creating a sense of ownership for the physician.

Healthcare environments that continue to successfully foster loyalty and achievement often do so through short-term incentive programs. Medical practices have the imperative to give proper weight to both short and long-term incentive programs when building a compensation design framework.

The fundamentals of a good incentive plan include the elements of vision, potential, communication and motivation. A sound incentive program projects the potential that can be realized if incentive promises are fulfilled – by both the medical practice and individual physicians. However, in the absence of well-defined indicators and a “best practices” framework for the long-term, even the most comprehensive program can fall short.

Indicators, which are sometimes referred to as measures and metrics in a medical practice’s reward strategy, are pivotal to a comprehensive incentive program. Medical practices might include both general practitioners and specialists, with both bringing different opportunities for revenue into a facility.

A General Practitioner may see a high number of patients at a relatively low cost, compared with a surgeon who can generate a much larger revenue stream with just a couple operations.  It can therefore be difficult to determine the extent to incentivize physicians, as the number of patients seen may vary widely.  Ultimately, any incentive program must be built for the long-term; in that way a higher probability for retention exists.

The role of indicators is straightforward; they seek to improve performance, influence behavior and create focus. But these elements can only be achieved through communication and consistent reinforcement that promotes a practice-wide mindset of employee ownership.

Without a base of thoroughly defined indicators, employee motivation can collapse, creating a domino effect that can negatively impact an organization’s structure and culture in short time.

By incorporating a few well thought out approaches to the design, implementation and communication of physician compensation strategies, medical groups can ultimately secure a path toward growth.

Jim Moniz is CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Boston based executive compensation firm that works nationally with businesses, physician groups, medical practices, hospitals and other industries on strategies for recruiting, retaining key performers using  rewards initiatives. To contact Jim, email him at [email protected].

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