Top Issues Challenging Academic Medicine: Seven Key Takeaways from The AAMC Annual Meeting 2019

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From November 9th through the 12th, I attended The AAMC Annual Meeting, “Learn, Serve, Lead” in Phoenix, Arizona.  Along with over 4,800 of my colleagues, we participated in a variety of workshops, round table discussions, and presentations by distinguished healthcare industry leaders.  The topics presented ranged from racial and economic injustice to partisan gridlock, and innovative solutions to combat burnout and other healthcare industry challenges.  There are several key trends taking shape in our world, as well as many questions that need to be answered in the coming months and years. Here are seven key takeaways from this year’s AAMC Annual Meeting.

  1. The 2019 AAMC data suggests an even more dire physician shortage of 46,900 – 121,900 physicians by 2032 – we must recognize this presents both a rural AND urban staffing challenge. It’s easy to fall victim to the rural versus urban mindset as one studies the physician shortage challenge. Yet, as we dig further into the data, it’s clear the shortage is affecting all areas. We all must address the HPSAs and other dimensions to find a solution that provides better access to care for all Americans.
  2. Succession planning within academic medical institutions and medical schools – administrators and physicians are on different pages. Succession planning can be a tough conversation, but it is critical for strategic planning and quality patient care. Remaining flexible is very important to physician leaders and physicians when it comes to retirement and succession planning, but neither group can agree on what that looks like. For example, in surveys, 42% of physician respondents would like part-time teaching roles, yet just 70% of the institutions provide that option. It was also interesting to discover that 32% of faculty respondents identified burnout as a retirement factor, yet 57% of the institutions cited physician burnout as the main retirement factor. Also, surprisingly, in spite of an aging population, only 43% of medical schools reported having a formal retirement policy.
  3. Telehealth is now a possibility for all communities, as CMS is releasing new telehealth payment parity in 2020. We can expect that payment parity will result in higher demand and an increase in access points. Today, 95% of medical students are interested in learning more about telemedicine. The technology is clearly becoming a viable, collectible solution, but the unanswered question is facilitating physician training.  With overloaded schedules through UME and GME, the question, “how and when do physicians receive telemedicine training?” is what everyone is asking.
  4. The relationship between the paired leaders of the Academic Enterprise and the Clinical Enterprise impacts everything from budgets, expectations, retention, and culture. As a top-down driven function, trust, communication, and transparency between enterprise leadership groups are more important than ever. Cultivating this working relationship ultimately impacts the success or failure of key service lines and departments.
  5. Trends show that growth strategies should be value-based versus price-extractive, meaning we grow by being better and not by getting bigger. This is done by leveraging cost, quality, and service advantages. The success factors include: an increasing share of covered lives, competing based on outcomes, minimizing total cost, assembling the network, offering convenience, and, of course, expanding access to care.
  6. Will academic medicine soon develop productivity units to mirror Clinical RVUs? This new academic currency is a fascinating subject – and I’m sure other physician leadership consultants feel the same. The biggest outstanding question on everyone’s mind is, “what are you doing with all of the protected time?”
  7. By next year, the United States will have a minority-majority for all citizens under the age of 18 – matching providers to our patient population has never been more crucial. Throughout the next ten years, the overall population will be led by minorities. Tracking and monitoring diversity for providers and leaders, while still maintaining inclusiveness, is a priority and should be considered the norm.

It’s an exciting and volatile time in academic medicine and overall healthcare with continuous transformation on the horizon. Mergers & Acquisitions and consolidation remain at an all-time high, and no one is expecting this trend to reverse.  For now, all of us will be monitoring the different alignments, integrations, and relationships between healthcare organizations and their academic counterparts.

As a physician leadership search consultant, I look forward to helping prepare our leaders for this new normal.  My focus is on navigating the ever-changing healthcare environment and assisting our clients through smarter recruitment and finding ways to increase retention, so they can focus on what matters most – providing the best care for the patients they serve.

At Jackson Physician Search, we help healthcare organizations and academic medical centers to recruit physician leaders. Our innovative process includes rolling well-qualified and interested candidates as they become available versus waiting for a full slate, reducing the number of interviews with cutting edge technology, and providing transparent and frequent communication to search committees. This strategy reduces candidate attrition and time-to-fill while increasing recruitment return on investment. Please contact our physician leadership experts at Jackson Physician Search for more information.

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Creating a Culture of Physician Wellness

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Physician burnout has been a topic of conversation for several years now, but a related topic that is not garnering nearly enough attention is physician wellness.  According to the National Institute of Health, part of the reason is that physician wellness or physician well-being is not clearly defined or measured.  With the spotlight on the issue of physician burnout, now is the perfect time for healthcare administrators to focus attention on creating a culture of wellness within their physician group.

An article published by the New England Journal of Medicine cited a culture of wellness as one of three drivers that contribute to higher professional fulfillment, along with the efficiency of practice, and personal resilience.  The article cites the culture of wellness and the efficiency of practice as organizational responsibilities in addressing burnout, while personal resilience is the responsibility of the individual physician.  Let’s look at ways healthcare organizations can begin creating physician wellness efforts as an approach toward reducing burnout.

Understand what a Culture of Wellness Means

As defined, a culture of wellness includes a set of values, attitudes, and behaviors promoting personal and professional growth, the practice of self-care, and compassion for colleagues, patients, and the individual.  Once healthcare organizations recognize the importance of physician wellness, they are more likely to measure and attend to it with resources and accountability.

Recognize Burnout in Your Organization

While 98% of healthcare administrators recognize that burnout is a problem, most perceive it to be a greater problem outside of their own organization. To understand the levels of burnout within your organization, it has to be measured periodically via the Maslach Burnout Inventory or another similar tool.  It is always better to know how much burnout is impacting your staff and work toward finding solutions.

Designate a Wellness “Owner” 

One key way that organizations can prove that they are taking physician wellness seriously is by designating an individual to own wellness efforts. Having someone who can champion the effort and also have accountability for the development of the plan and associated results, demonstrates a level of seriousness that facilitates physician “buy-in.”

Focus on Continuous Improvement in Workflows 

As important as measuring your internal levels of physician burnout are towards understanding the scope of the problem, it is equally important to understand the contributing factors. Organizationally, it is critical to recognize inefficiencies in workflows and other factors that are causing your physicians the most frustration. For some, it is excessive time spent on EMR’s, for others, it might be appropriate time off after unusually long or difficult shifts. The best way to get a handle on the issues causing the biggest challenges for your staff is by talking about them. Encouraging open and honest dialogue can shine a light on things that need to be changed, but also lead to physician-led solutions.

Skills Building

Everyone handles stressors differently. Some physicians seem immune to pressure situations, while others internalize them and struggle in silence.  Being resilient is a critical characteristic for anyone who has a stressful occupation. The good news is that resiliency can be learned. Putting resources toward developing resiliency skills in your physician staff and implementing other interventions like a strong mentorship program can help your team handle the pressures of the job while facilitating important dialogue and creative solutions.

Creating a culture of wellness requires resources and accountability throughout clinical and administrative leadership. It is not unreasonable to expect that your physicians should attend to their own well-being, although providing them with the tools and resources to do that is critical to a successful approach.  Clearly, strategies to reduce physician burnout are dominating national studies of practicing physicians and physicians in training.  As more research and data becomes available about successful physician wellness programs, discussions about integrating a more balanced approach to combating physician burnout will be more prevalent.

Jackson Physician Search is comprised of a team of professionals with decades of healthcare industry experience.  Contact us today to find out how our expertise and nationwide reach can work for you.

 

Provide Autonomy to Keep Physicians Engaged

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Staying Ahead of Physician Retirements

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Much of the recent discussions regarding the impending physician shortage include the reality that by 2020, one in three physicians will be of retirement age.  Couple that with the associated costs incurred with each physician vacancy, and it is clear that hospital and healthcare system administrators need to get out in front of their physician retirements.  Jackson Physician Search recently conducted a survey of physicians and administrators regarding their thoughts about retirement and how that will impact physician staffing levels.  The survey was followed up by the publication of a white paper outlining retirement perceptions of both groups of respondents.

One thing that was clear throughout the survey results is that physician perception about retirement varies greatly from administrator’s perception of the same.  Here are a few ways that administrators can better prepare for physician retirements.

Understand what is driving the retirement discussion for physicians.

Administrators responded that the average age for retirement at their facility was 65, which is in line with U.S. Census data reporting 63 years of age. Administrators also cited that the main driver for physician retirement was lifestyle (48%), but that the second driver was for health reasons (15%). Physicians, on the other hand, cited lifestyle (44%) as the top reason, but stated financial stability (23%) second, and burnout (20%) was third.

Facilitate the Retirement Conversation.

Contemplating retirement is a big deal for anyone, physicians included.  When asked, 80% recognize that it is their responsibility to initiate the retirement conversation, but only 52% responded that they feel comfortable doing so. Overwhelmingly, administrators responded that they felt comfortable having the retirement discussion with their physicians. That is an important consideration to keep in mind. Knowing which of your physicians are nearing retirement age with the understanding that they may not be comfortable talking about it, a good strategy should be to create an environment where they can openly discuss their plans. Some organizations use surveys. Others have HR provide talking points to assist the physicians in starting the retirement conversation. However it is done; the important factor is to make it a collaborative, comfortable conversation.

Don’t Get Caught by Short Notice.

We all know how long it can take to fill a physician vacancy and how much each vacancy can cost.  One area of great divergence between physician responses and administrator responses concerns the amount of prior notice to be given before a retirement.  Almost 50% of administrators stated that the ideal advance notice was one to three years, while 40% of physicians claimed 6 months or less was sufficient.  With that much of a discrepancy, clearly, proactively having retirement discussions are just as important as developing an ongoing recruitment effort to have available candidates in the pipeline.

Create a Win-Win Retirement Transition Plan.

Up to 40% of administrators responded that they considered full retirement the top priority for physicians.  Surprisingly, only 17% of physicians indicated that they were planning to fully retire, and almost 28% stated that they would work full or part-time somewhere else.  Again, this divergence of opinion re-emphasizes the importance of open and honest retirement conversations. Administrators can be proactive and work on creating a transition plan for each physician’s retirement. Whether it is an offer of flexible part-time hours, taking on telemedicine duties that can be managed around their schedule, or even non-clinical duties as available.  Another important piece of information that came out of the survey is that 50% of physicians stated that they would consider employer-sponsored incentives to start an early retirement process.  That type of proactive approach could be utilized to the organization’s benefit and help to avoid any retirement surprises. When asked if they offered any type of proactive, employer-sponsored early retirement benefits, nearly 95% of administrators responded in the negative.

Retirement is going to be an important topic over the next several years for a large portion of the current physician workforce.  Administrators should take the opportunity to review the Jackson Physician Search Retirement Survey White Paper and formulate a collaborative strategy with their physicians.  Having a clear understanding of each party’s intentions can ease any unexpected vacancies and also allow for a more comfortable transition for the retiring physicians.

If your organization needs the assistance of a trusted physician recruitment partner or wants to tap into the knowledge of experienced healthcare industry professionals, reach out to Jackson Physician Search today.

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Provide Autonomy to Keep Physicians Engaged

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Since the Gallup survey on physician engagement came out in 2015, most if not all hospital administrators made themselves familiar with the information that was collected.  Since then, countless articles have been published highlighting the ways that healthcare organizations can keep their physicians engaged, yet, physician burnout and retention issues still exist, with more than 40% of physicians reporting that they are suffering from burnout.

In a subsequent survey, Jackson Physician Search conducted an engagement survey, using the same Gallup poll questions, but requested responses from both physicians and hospital administrators.  The results illustrated a clear difference between the physician experience of engagement drivers and the administration’s perception of the same.

In their own words, physicians value autonomy and want to be treated fairly and with respect. All three of these factors contribute to physician engagement, and all three are areas where physician perception differs from administrators’ perception. With that in mind, let’s review how physician engagement expectations can be met.

 

Place appropriate emphasis on culture and fit.

More than at any time prior, physicians want to work for an organization that is aligned with their own values.  Current physician shortages have created a very competitive physician recruitment environment, making it increasingly important to recruit and hire physicians who are a good fit for your organizational culture. If your organization does not have a recognizable or clearly defined culture, consider investing the time to find out. Further, it is important to recognize that an engaged physician staff are more productive and generates more revenue than physicians who are not engaged.

Ensure administrative actions are aligned with physician goals.

Physicians care about the patients they are serving.  When asked about the source of their frustration, many cite what they deem to be unreasonable expectations put upon them by executive decree.  There is always a reason why administrators place a goal or expectation on a physician, and usually, there is data to back it up. Where the gap materializes is that the data or reason behind an administrative action is not shared with the physician staff.  When physicians perceive that administrative actions are conflicting with their medical decision-making, any sense of autonomy is lost.  Transparency regarding goals and expectations facilitates physician buy-in and reduces unnecessary stress and burnout.

Cultivate an open environment for feedback and transparency.

The gap between physician perspective and that of administrators highlights the need for improved communication from the top down.  Physicians are trained problem-solvers, and when they are engaged, they can be invaluable in helping to solve organizational issues and other challenges in the workplace. Creating a culture of open and honest communication and feedback can ignite their problem-solving skills and lead to solutions that may be missed without a front-line perspective.

Implement a Physician Leadership development strategy.

In addition to being problem solvers, many physicians are natural leaders.  In a 2019 poll conducted by the Medical Group Management Association, 67% of respondents cited that no leadership coaching was provided to their clinicians. Admittedly, not every physician has the interpersonal skills to be an effective leader or executive.  But, there are many other ways that physicians can be developed to provide effective leadership to a slew of organization objectives. Those with demonstrated leadership skills and abilities should be groomed to take on future roles within the organization. Others, who exhibit different types of problem-solving or leadership skills can be trained to provide specific project-level leadership to help achieve organizational objectives. The key is to tap into each individual’s skill set to develop and nurture their innate skills and abilities.

Create a culture of support.

Too often, healthcare organizations develop a tendency to overreact to regulatory and qualitative burdens. No one will argue that raising the standards of care are important, but to the practicing physician, the regulatory burdens can be crushing.  All of the above recommendations should contribute to a recognized need for healthcare organizations to develop an environment where regulatory and qualitative burdens are met by a collaborative approach.  Together, administrators and physicians should communicate about a collective approach to achieving quality standards and meeting the increasing regulatory burden.

 

The roadmap to achieving physician engagement, while satisfying their desire for autonomy in patient care decisions is hardly different than in organizations across the employment spectrum. Physicians, like most working individuals, want to work in an environment where they are valued, have an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process, and are supported by leadership.

To learn more about how your healthcare organization can improve physician engagement and retention, contact an experienced Jackson Physician Search industry professional today.

 

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[White Paper] The Realities of Physician Retirement: A Survey of Physicians and Healthcare Administrators

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One of the major factors of the impending physician shortage is the aging physician workforce. We recently conducted a survey including practicing physicians and health administrators to better understand the situation. This whitepaper includes our findings and conclusions. Feel free to download and share.

 

By 2020, one in three physicians will be over age 65 and approaching retirement. For hospital administrators, recruiting an experienced physician is a complicated process that takes significant time. An open position is costly in terms of lost revenue and the potential loss of both patient satisfaction and staff morale.

Given that a hospital can easily lose $150,000 per month if a specialist leaves and that a search for a medical or surgical specialist takes five to 10 months, the stakes are high. New research from Jackson Physician Search―that surveyed both practicing physicians and healthcare administrators―highlights the importance of creating the right culture and processes around physician retirement, including effective transition processes and ongoing recruiting efforts, to avoid the negatives of a vacancy or understaffing situation.

Among the key findings:

  • Physicians’ drivers for retirement include lifestyle, financial stability, burnout and frustration with the current state of medicine. While physicians cited lifestyle issues (44 percent) as the most important reason driving their retirement decision, followed by financial stability (23 percent), comments from nearly 20 percent of them noted burnout and frustration with the increased focus on paperwork and patient volume as well as decreased focus on patient care.
  • Physicians feel it’s their responsibility to initiate the retirement conversation, but they are less comfortable doing so than administrators. A large majority of physicians (80 percent) said it’s their responsibility to broach the subject compared with 37 percent of administrators, yet less of them (52 percent) are comfortable discussing retirement plans than administrators (74 percent).
  • Physicians and administrators have vastly different opinions on what the ideal notice period is for a retirement timeline. Almost 50 percent of administrators indicated the ideal notice was one to three years, while 40 percent of physicians felt six months or less was sufficient. Also, 34 percent of physicians said they weren’t required to give any notice of retirement, while 81 percent of administrators said they were required to give more than three months.
  • Administrators assume that many physicians will fully retire, but a number of them plan to work elsewhere. Almost 40 percent of administrators named full retirement as a top retirement transition method at their organization, but just 17 percent of physicians were planning to do so. In contrast, 28 percent of doctors say they will work part or full time somewhere else.

Although there is hesitancy about initiating a conversation about retirement, it is clear that both administrators and physicians feel that it’s a beneficial discussion for both parties. Differences remain on length of notice and whose responsibility it is to bring up retirement, but when handled respectfully and conducted in a non-discriminatory way, both parties can find the ideal way to transition the retirement with proper planning and processes.

Survey Methodology and Demographics

To find out how both physicians and hospital administrators approach physician retirement and transition planning, we surveyed both groups on a range of related topics. These included the age of retirement, drivers for making the decision, requirements and timeframe for giving notice, comfort with having the conversation and whose responsibility it was to initiate it. Other questions were related to the retirement transition itself and interest in employer retirement incentives.

A total of 567 physicians and surgeons from a wide range of specialties responded to the survey. Physician respondents were distributed throughout the United States, roughly based on state population. Half of them described their communities as suburban and just 15 percent noted rural. Most respondents (61 percent) were between the ages of 50 and 69, and the majority were male (71 percent).

There were 100 hospital administrator respondents to the survey, many of which were C-level executives, followed by directors and administrators in a variety of recruiting and human resources functions. The administrators were distributed across the country, but a larger proportion (40 percent) were from self-described rural communities. As with the physician respondents, most were between the ages of 50 and 69 (63 percent), although the majority of administrator respondents were female (55 percent).

Drivers for Physician Retirement

In the survey, administrators report the average age for retirement at their healthcare facility as 65, which is in line with the age of 63 as determined by analysis of U.S. Census data. Not surprisingly, physicians named lifestyle (44 percent) and financial stability (23 percent) as top drivers for retirement. Likewise, administrators also perceive lifestyle (48 percent) as a top driver, although they found health reasons (15 percent) the second most prevalent motive, which was close to three times more than what physicians cited. Administrators were also less likely to think that financial stability (14 percent) was the most common reason physicians made a retirement decision.

More than 17 percent of physicians indicated “Other” as the top reason for retirement, compared with just 10 percent of administrators. Many physicians indicated burnout and frustration with the state of medicine in the United States, as noted in the following comments:

  • Managed care, whether private or government, has made the practice of medicine too adversarial to enjoy enough to consider delaying retirement.
  • Medicine has turned into a quagmire of regulatory burdens, collecting data, and the destruction of physician’s autonomy and authority in individual patient care.
  • Doctors are no longer able to practice medicine with the primary objective of patient well-being!!
  • It has become too onerous to practice. The focus is on increasing volume with less and less pay. Also, the practices are running leaner which shifts more and more clerical work onto doctors. Add to these issues the increasing testing and “boutique” results reporting and you have a formula for high stress with diminishing satisfaction and diminished returns.

Having the Retirement Conversation

When it comes to initiating the retirement conversation, survey results show that the topic weighs more heavily on the physician, and that there is room for administrators to make the discussion more comfortable, both for the benefit of the physician and the organization. A large majority of physicians (80 percent) said it’s their responsibility to broach the retirement subject compared with 37 percent of administrators, yet less of physicians (52 percent) are comfortable discussing retirement plans than administrators (74 percent). One physician noted that “succession should always be a part of the hiring discussion and empowerment to plan and mentor over time.”

On the administrator side, almost 30 percent cited “Other” when asked whose responsibility it was to start talking about retirement. The following comments from physicians in this category indicated an acknowledgment that they had difficulty broaching the subject―and that there is a need for a more formal, yet inviting process, especially given the long lead time needed to recruit a physician:

  • MDs usually initiate, but if they are having trouble, the administrator or group president will initiate the conversation.
  • I believe our physicians are not very comfortable with the conversation, so we (HR) have provided them with a script and talking points to assist with these conversations.
  • Ultimately, it should be the physician, but there is a hesitancy to do so. Therefore, we have tried to make it a collaborative discussion between the physician and the physician leader.
  • We periodically send surveys to the physicians, asking that they let us know if they are considering retirement in the next 1 to 3 years, as the recruitment process is lengthy.
  • The organization views it as the physician’s responsibility. However, as a recruiter needing lead time, I’d like a plan to approach the physicians and have administration address succession planning. I’ve been pressing for this almost five years without success.

The Realities of Giving Notice

Physicians and administrators have vastly different perspectives on what the ideal notice period is for providing a retirement timeline, a finding that might partially be explained by the lack of conversation and practices regarding retirement in general. Almost 50 percent of administrators indicated the ideal notice was one to three years, while 40 percent of physicians indicated it was 6 months or less. Also, 34 percent of physicians said they weren’t required to give any notice of retirement at all, while 81 percent of administrators said they were required to give more than three months.

When administrators were asked how much notice they typically receive when a physician plans to retire, their answers ranged from a high of three years to a low of one month, with an average of 10 months. The most common notice period cited was six months, which was in line with what physicians reported as the ideal notice period. Given the timeline for locating a physician and the fact that 40 percent of physicians thought 6 months or less was an ideal notice, administrators should consider the practice of ongoing recruitment of candidates to make sure there are no gaps in care and revenue.

The Retirement Transition

Physicians in the survey indicated some differing ideas about the retirement transition than administrators might assume, which possibly indicates they are looking for greater flexibility in their transition process. Almost 40 percent of administrators named full retirement as a top retirement transition method at their organization, but just 17 percent of physicians were planning to do so and almost 28 percent of doctors say they will work part or full time somewhere else. Some of the doctors listing “Other” planned to pursue locum tenens work or pro re nata (PRN) and telemedicine options that let them dictate their own schedules, while others looked to potentially help with recruiting, mentoring and managerial tasks at their current practice.

Many physicians (47 percent) were interested in retirement information planning services, but only half of administrators indicated those are offered. Comments from physicians indicated the vast majority of them were, not surprisingly, most interested in financial and healthcare planning. Physicians in the survey were also looking for help with the general process of retirement, along with ways to explore part-time or non-clinical options, as noted in these comments:

  • There is a need for an outline and timeline of what needs to be done, as well as the contact people to facilitate the process.
  • I would like to know the steps for the retirement process and how/when to transition to Medicare health coverage. I am also interested in opportunities for part-time work with the same employer, along with pay/benefit information.
  • It would be helpful to know how to manage before full retirement age.
  • I would like to know what part-time work is available once I retire that may or may not include clinical care.

When asked if employer-sponsored incentives would induce them to start an early retirement process, 50 percent of physicians agreed it would, with most requesting financial and/or healthcare benefits. Others were looking for part-time employment opportunities. However, nearly all administrators (95 percent) indicated they offered no incentives to initiate an earlier retirement approach so that staff planning was more seamless.

 

 

Conclusion

The survey results indicate that there is a need for more formal processes surrounding physician retirement, especially given the ongoing shortage of doctors in the United States. To help both hospitals and physicians with the retirement transition, administrators should:

  • Develop non-discriminatory ways of approaching the retirement conversation. HR and physician leaders should work together to create a step-by-step process for when and how to approach the conversation, which might even occur as early as during the hiring process. Having such a process makes the physician feel less singled out for the discussion. In addition, routine surveys on retirement plans can open the lines of communication.
  • Offer incentives to initiate an early retirement process. To encourage earlier notice of retirement from physicians, administrator should consider incentives like a percentage of pay for earlier notice, health benefits for a specified time period, and relief from call duties.
  • Create flexible offerings like part-time or non-clinical work. For financial and other reasons, such as benefits, many physicians would like to continue working, which could ease the burden during the onboarding process for a new physician. Having a process for scheduled conversations about retirement can help prepare for a situation where several physicians retire at once, which would include extra scheduling activities and other administrative tasks. However, given the high costs of a full vacancy, these costs could easily be justified.
  • Adopt a continuous recruitment process instead of treating a physician vacancy as a one-off occurrence. This will ensure that the physician candidate pipeline is full in the event that one or more physicians are transitioning to retirement. By maintaining relationships with qualified candidates, the organization is not starting at the ground floor of recruitment and can quickly adjust to unforeseen issues with retirement transitions.

With the proper planning and processes built on more open communications, hospital administrators can avoid understaffing and continue to provide the best possible patient care. Starting early in a physician’s career with these processes can make the transition and succession planning more comfortable for all parties and support more optimal recruiting efforts.

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Proactive Retention for Today’s Physicians

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It is already well-documented how much physician vacancies cost healthcare systems and medical practices.  With as much as 40% of physician vacancies going unfilled as recently as 2017, retaining the physician staff that you already have in-house has become more important than ever.  Let’s review proactive ways that administrators can improve physician retention instead of filling endless vacancies.

Hire for Fit

The most effective way of reducing physician turnover is to hire physicians that are already aligned with your corporate mission, values, and culture. When your staff believes they are working for an organization that embodies the same values and culture, they are naturally more engaged in their workplace. According to a Gallup study, physicians who are more engaged not only avoid looking for new opportunities, they are also 26% more productive and generate 51% more referrals than their counterparts that don’t feel that same sense of engagement.

Embrace Flexible Scheduling

Today’s physicians are not the typical doctor of 30 years ago. If you want your physician staff to maintain a singular focus on treating patient after patient in an assembly line fashion, there is a good chance you are already in an unending cycle of physician vacancies. Today’s physician has other personal and professional interests that go beyond their love of healthcare. Whether it is research, teaching the occasional class, or spending several weeks a year on medical missions to underserved nations, cater to your physician staff’s outside interests, and they will repay you with loyalty.

Learn the value of EQ

When discussing someone’s intelligence, references are always made to their IQ, but just as important for retention purposes is EQ.  Emotional quotient (EQ) has been studied since 1990, and the results have shown that individuals with higher EQ, are more rewarding to work with, and are better at handling stress and workplace relationships. The good news is that EQ is something that can be developed in everyone.  EQ training is sometimes referred to as soft skills training, and when successful, the results are an improved workplace culture and environment. Another important consideration when EQ training is being implemented is that it needs to include everyone from administration to physicians to support staff.

Develop a Mentorship Program

Physician burnout is affecting up to 55% of doctors, according to the Stanford University School of Medicine.  When staggering numbers of physicians are reporting feeling the effects of burnout, it is not a stretch to imagine them looking for a new opportunity that doesn’t include the same amount of stress.  A mentoring program can help physicians who are struggling to manage the stress of their job and career.  Physician mentors have experienced the same types of job stress as their struggling counterparts and have valuable wisdom to share.

There is no single retention strategy that will help you avoid physician vacancies. But, losing sight of the factors that are contributing to your retention woes is the surest way to keep the vacancy cycle going.  Paying attention to the culture of your workplace and understanding how leaders with lower EQ contribute to stress and disengagement can help you set a course for improved retention and more success overall.

Jackson Physician Search is annually ranked in the top 15 Best Places to Work in by Modern Healthcare.  Our team of industry and recruitment professionals stands ready to help you find, hire, and retain the physicians and advanced practice professionals your organization needs.  Contact us today to get started.

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Survey Reveals Costly Disconnect Between Physicians and Hospitals About Retirement

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MGMA19 | The Annual Conference

New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Booth 1427

 

ATLANTA and NEW ORLEANS ― (Oct. 14, 2019) — While physicians often feel it’s their responsibility to initiate a conversation about retirement plans with hospitals, many of them think much less notice is necessary than hospital administrators would find ideal. In a new survey from Jackson Physician Search, a firm specializing in the permanent recruitment of physicians and advanced practice providers to hospitals and other healthcare providers, many physicians felt that less than six months of notice was reasonable, despite hospital administrators preferring a one to three year notice period.

 

This week, during the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Annual Conference in New Orleans, Jackson Physician Search President Tony Stajduhar will share key findings from the company’s newly released study, “The Realities of Physician Retirement: A Survey of Physicians and Healthcare Administrators.”

 

“Given that a hospital can easily lose $150,000 per month if a specialist leaves and a search for a medical or surgical specialist can take anywhere from five to 10 months, the stakes are high with this disconnect between physicians and administrators about notices of retirement,” said Stajduhar. “The findings in our study highlight the importance of creating the right culture and processes around physician retirement, including effective transition processes and ongoing recruiting efforts, to avoid the downside of a vacancy or understaffing situation.”

 

The survey, which was conducted in August of 2019, included responses from 567 doctors across a range of specialties and 100 administrators from throughout the country. Among the key findings:

 

  • Physicians feel it’s their responsibility to initiate the retirement conversation, but they are less comfortable doing so than administrators. A large majority of physicians (80 percent) said it’s their responsibility to broach the subject compared with 37 percent of administrators, yet less of them (52 percent) are comfortable discussing retirement plans than administrators (74 percent).

 

  • Physicians and administrators have vastly different opinions on what the ideal notice period is for a retirement timeline. Almost 50 percent of administrators indicated the ideal notice was one to three years, while 40 percent of physicians felt six months or less was sufficient. Further, 34 percent of physicians said they weren’t required to give any notice of retirement, while 81 percent of administrators said they were required to give more than three months.

 

  • Physicians’ drivers for retirement include lifestyle, financial stability, burnout and frustration with the current state of medicine. While physicians cited lifestyle issues (44 percent) as the most important reason driving their retirement decision, followed by financial stability (23 percent), comments from nearly 20 percent noted burnout and frustration with the current state of medicine and decreased focus on patient care.

 

  • Administrators assume that many physicians will fully retire, but a number of them plan to work elsewhere. Almost 40 percent of administrators named full retirement as a top retirement transition method at their organization. However, the study indicated that just 17 percent of physicians were planning to do so. In contrast, 28 percent of doctors said they will work part or full time somewhere else.

These and other findings in the Jackson Physician Search research are significant. By 2020, one in three physicians will be over age 65 and approaching retirement. That, coupled with the fact that recruiting an experienced, culturally-aligned physician can be a timely and complicated process for hospital administrators, adds to the complexity.

 

“Although there is hesitancy about initiating a conversation about retirement, it is clear that both administrators and physicians feel that it’s a beneficial discussion for both parties,” added Stajduhar. “Differences remain on length of notice and whose responsibility it is to bring up retirement, but when handled respectfully and conducted in a non-discriminatory way, both parties can find the ideal way to approach retirement transitions through proper planning and processes.”

 

The complete report on the survey results is available here: https://www.jacksonphysiciansearch.com/white-paper-the-realities-of-physician-retirement-a-survey-of-physicians-and-healthcare-administrators/

 

Jackson Physician Search

Jackson Physician Search is an established industry leader in physician recruitment and pioneered the recruitment methodologies standard in the industry today. The firm specializes in the permanent recruitment of physicians and advanced practice providers for hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers and medical groups across the United States. Headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga., the company is recognized for its track record of results built on client trust and transparency of processes and fees. Jackson Physician Search is part of the Jackson Healthcare® family of companies. For more information, visit www.jacksonphysiciansearch.com.

 

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Media Contact:                                                                                                

Jan Sisko

Carabiner Communications

jsisko@carabinercomms.com

(678) 461-7438

Let Branded Recruitment Work for You

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Has your healthcare organization developed a brand that is recognizable to local consumers and gives them a glimpse into your values and culture?  If not, you may be missing out on consumers who would choose your facility for their healthcare needs, as well as physicians you are trying to recruit.  It is critical that you use your brand throughout your recruitment process, but remember that it’s more than just a logo and tagline. Rather, it represents an embodiment of your staff, your values, and the type and quality of care you provide to your patients.

As important as branding is for your organization, overall, it is just as important in attracting the right physicians to join your team.  Physicians today are much more likely to join organizations that they perceive to share similar culture and values. Jackson Physician Search understands the importance of branding and offers branded physician recruitment.  Branded recruitment is a level of partnership with a recruitment agency that goes to the next level. A recruitment agency’s resources and expertise are combined with the branding of the organization. Job postings and emails have the logo of the organization and include more detail about the opportunity.

How Branded Recruitment Works for You

Whether you are an administrator at a rural FQHC or a multi-facility health system, branded recruitment offers you an opportunity to expand and improve your recruitment process.  A smaller facility or health system may not have the resources to run a national recruitment campaign.  In many instances, those who are doing the recruiting are already wearing multiple hats. Finding a trusted physician recruitment partner who can manage a branded search for your vacancy immediately adds experienced resources to your search effort.  And, in the case of a large health system with an established team of recruiters, today’s hiring landscape is probably stretching them to capacity.  Large systems can utilize their recruitment partner for specific searches, for example, the primary care and internal medicine vacancies, while the in-house team focuses on all of the specialties.  Both of these scenarios creates a win-win situation because, with branded recruitment, the physicians only see your facility name and brand.  Let’s look at other ways a branded recruitment strategy can work for you.

  • Using a branded recruitment strategy with a trusted, experienced recruitment partner immediately provides you with reach and access to hundreds of passive and active physician applicants. Because candidates are more familiar with local healthcare organizations and the fact that AAMC reports physicians often stay in state, it pays to use your own brand. For example, AAMC reports that physicians in Georgia remain in the state at a rate of 49.8% and 62.1% in Texas.
  • Digital branding of your ads and emails seamlessly appear to the candidates as coming from your facility and location. Studies show that branded emails generate up to a 50% higher response rate than generic emails or job board postings.
  • Having a recruitment partner managing your brand presence for physician vacancies improves your brand awareness and visibility, helping you now and in future searches.
  • Your recruitment partnership is an exclusive agreement that takes the time-consuming vetting process off of your team’s plate, allowing them to focus on other critical matters of the business. You are only presented with the candidates who fit your organizational culture and values.

Your brand is important, and it should be a factor in your recruitment process.  Using a recruitment partner who understands the importance of brand and also has the capabilities to reach candidates, you may not otherwise have access to, is an important factor in finding a physician who fits your need.

Jackson Physician Search can manage your branded search campaign while providing you with access to proprietary digital tools, national exposure, and an experienced team of recruitment professionals.  Contact us today to learn more about how we can put your brand to work for you.

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How to Solve the Impending Physician Shortage

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While we continue to see news stories that illustrate the impending physician shortage that is impacting communities all over the United States, the thing we don’t hear enough about is what can be done about it.  The main reason for the lack of information about ways to reverse the doctor shortage is because much of it relies on federal intervention.  To refresh your memory, in 1997 as part of a Balanced Budget Act, Congress enacted legislation to cap the number of residency training slots to be funded through Medicare.  Now, twenty-two years later, the limitations are effectively inhibiting the training of enough new physicians to keep up with the increased care demands of a growing population and an elderly population that is living longer.

A recent comprehensive study presented key findings to include, a projected physician shortage by the year 2032 of up to 121,900, and population growth of 10% with those over age 65 increasing by 48%.  The report did identify that there would be a continuation in the growth of physician assistants and advanced practice RNs.  Good news on the surface, but the report found that emerging health care delivery trends in addition to the increased use of advanced practice providers would only contribute to a physician demand reduction of about 1% overall.  Considering all of these factors, let’s look at what can be done to solve the physician shortage.

  1. Enact legislation to reverse the residency training limits.

There are currently two bills that were introduced in the House of Representatives and one bill introduced in the Senate that will increase the numbers of residency slots by up to 5,000 per year for the next five years.  While this should be welcome news that physician shortage relief is on the horizon, the current ultra-partisan state of our legislative branch means that like so many other pieces of legislation, no action is being taken on the bills.  All three of these legislative items are sitting in a preliminary status after having been introduced earlier this year. Concerned citizens can take action and contact their federally elected representatives and ask them to move on the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 (H.R. 1763, S. 348) and also the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 (H.R. 3414).

  1. Continue to develop ways to improve physician utilization.

As previously mentioned, there is a growing utilization of advanced practice providers, such as physician assistants and other specialty practice providers, like certified anesthesiologist assistants and others.  Extending a physician’s reach through improved and increased utilization of technology solutions, like telemedicine, is another cost-effective way to improve access in underserved communities. One interesting advancement currently being used in France is a standalone telemedicine booth, called a Consult Station.  Inside, a patient is connected with a physician, via video, and has access to an array of diagnostic medical devices. Guided by the physician, the patient can perform a variety of health checks, including vital signs, blood oxygen levels, an electrocardiogram, and other tests.  These stations are in use throughout France and have improved access to medical care for many underserved rural communities.

  1. Embrace the utilization of new technologies.

Like France has done with the implementation of the Consult Station, the United States must take action to embrace and increase the efficiency of implementing new technologies.  From streamlining the training, licensing, and certification process for new innovations to increasing the utilization of computer-assisted medicine, artificial intelligence, and sensor technology.  As today’s healthcare consumers become more and more connected, they are increasingly active in monitoring their own care and are more open to accepting technologies as part of their healthcare experience. Technological innovations can supplement the increased utilization of advanced practice professionals and help bridge the gap in direct physician interventions.

There is no simple answer to the challenge of alleviating the physician shortage in the United States.  It is going to take a multi-faceted approach that includes participation and funding from both the private and public sector.  What can’t be overstated, however, is the fact that the trending pace of the shortage is far exceeding the pace of actions being taken to address the matter.  Until, a concerted effort is taken at the federal, state, and local level, access to care gaps will widen, and healthcare consumers will continue to bear the burden of the inaction.

 

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What To Consider When Choosing a Practice Setting

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When you were first dreaming about becoming a doctor, there is a good chance that most of the dream was just about helping and healing people without much thought to where it would occur.  Now that your dream has become a reality, you are probably amazed at how many options you have regarding a practice setting.  You have worked extremely hard to get where you are, so it is important to choose a practice setting that fits your personality and gives you the best opportunity to live out your dream.  Let’s look at several the things you should consider when choosing a practice setting.

Market Demographics

Many physicians who grew up in a small town or a rural community want to practice medicine in a rural setting.  Others who grew up in the city may just want to spend more time enjoying nature in wide-open spaces.  While there may not be a large variety of practice settings to choose from, many doctors favor the pace and lifestyle benefits that a rural community can provide.

Physicians who choose to practice in urban or more metropolitan areas will have many more practice options to choose from. In larger metro areas, doctors will experience more growth opportunities, higher patient volumes, and also have more access to support than those in rural communities.

Employment Model

Most recently, the trend for physicians is to leave their self-employed practice setting for a hospital or large system setting.  While some physicians are considering a return to private practice, the overall demand for practicing physicians is driving up the number of opportunities available in hospital settings and large private practice partnerships.

Many physicians prefer working in a hospital setting as a way to ensure a stable income with greater opportunities to earn bonuses and negotiate more favorable work hours. In a partnership setting, physicians are bridging the gap between being self-employed and the stability of a hospital setting. As a partner or at a minimum on a partnership track, physicians have a greater say in how the practice operates, fostering patient relationships, and contributing to the workplace culture.

Type of Organization

Much of your decision on the type of practice setting you want to work will be based on whether or not you want to work in a large or small setting. Obviously, if you want to be self-employed, you will be working in a smaller practice environment. If you choose to work in a large health system environment, you will have the luxury of having a stable flow of patients as well as access to a plethora of referring physicians.

If you are a specialist, you may want to practice in a single-specialty group that is independent or affiliated with a larger health system.  Others choose to practice in a larger group that has multiple specialties included within the organization.  This allows patients to have easier access to different specialists when necessary.

Working in a clinic setting may be the perfect choice for doctors who want to work in rural or underserved communities. Clinics typically offer a stable schedule with regular hours and even weekends off!  A downfall to working in a clinic environment is usually lower compensation and a lack of growth potential.

No one needs to tell you that a career as a physician is both rewarding and difficult.  The hard part of the equation is the main reason why it is so important for you to choose the right practice setting so you can achieve everything you dreamed of before becoming a doctor.  Finding a setting that affords you the opportunity to succeed and in an environment that fits your personal culture and values will lead to a long and personally healthy career.

Is it time for you to explore other opportunities and take your career to the next level?  Working with a Jackson Physician Search recruitment professional can be the jump start you need.  Contact our team of dedicated, industry experts today!

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