Whether you are recruiting physicians to a metropolitan area, where they can choose among plenty of practice opportunities, or to an underserved area, it’s important to think both strategically and creatively about what your organization can offer to recruit physicians who will fit.
As you map out your physician recruiting strategy, think of your total package as you might a car:
Base compensation is the basic chassis, engine and wheels. You need to know you have a sound and competitive starting point. Resources abound such as our physician salary calculator, and studies of compensation ranges by region published from MGMA, AMGA, Medscape.
Benefits also need to be competitive, at minimum. Just as every car has a dashboard, seats and interior, benefits are required, but can vary widely in quality, value and appeal.
Incentives and bonuses are the fuel. Offer the right incentive that drives the candidate toward “yes.” Once they are on board, incentives also help keep physicians aligned with your practice’s goals. Bonuses are the “reward” for getting to the desired destination.
Perks are the accessories. To operate safely or comfortably, you don’t need fancy exteriors, luxury interior finishes or a sophisticated stereo, GPS and entertainment system. But such added features capture the attention of buyers, appealing to them at an emotional level. If you know what is important to the candidate, the perks you offer can make all the difference.
All of the above are levers that can be “pressed” at every stage of your physician’s career cycle, starting with recruitment and extending through your retention strategy. But, be aware: benefits and incentives that were once unique can become expected, and then no longer differentiate your organization. The key is to listen to your physicians and keep an eye on trends to stay ahead of the curve – and your competition.
Competitive Physician Benefits Package
When recruiting, the foundation of a competitive offer is a strong basic benefits package. Physician benefits that have come to be expected (and usually subsidized) include medical and dental insurance, short- and long-term disability insurance, life insurance, paid time off, qualified retirement, CME/professional dues and malpractice coverage. Basic benefits should be appropriate to the position, uniform and available to everyone who is doing similar work or is at the same level in the organization.
Enhanced benefits have evolved to attract new physicians and keep seasoned physicians in practice longer. The use of EMRs, nurse triage centers and other technologies that support remote work can be positioned as a benefit to support a flexible work schedule, generous paid time off and partially paid sabbaticals.
Incentives and Bonuses
Incentives can be offered to candidates to encourage them to accept your position. They can also be built into your retention plan. Pre-paid incentives should come with the contingency for repayment if the physician doesn’t fulfill their obligation:
- Stipend while training
- Student loan repayment
- Relocation subsidy
- Payment for signing, commencing, and achieving retention milestone
A bonus is a payment which is backward-looking, when the individual or group achieves pre-determined goals. These are usually based on productivity, quality, patient satisfaction and cost criteria. They should be uncomplicated in design, simple to administer, and reasonable to achieve.
Perks come into play once you have established a competitive compensation and benefits package. Perks serve to creatively engage physicians to enhance their work/life balance, integrate them and their families into the community. Perks can appeal to a special hobby or interest that will help them refresh and refuel to avoid burnout.
For example, concierge services make day-to-day life more livable. They can facilitate the move by assisting physicians and their families with housing, childcare and school enrollment, and by connecting them to resources for hobbies, religious communities and civic activities. Private banking services, low-interest loans or club memberships are also attractive to new physicians.
Helping physicians stay productive and focused on patient care can enhance their satisfaction. Some hospitals and clinics in remote areas offer air transport or driver services so that physicians are using their time productively rather than wasting time in transit.
A growing trend is to recruit a “clinical scribe” from within the local community to enter EMR data during the exam, while the physician focuses on the patient – not their tablet. At a modest cost, this can improve the new physician’s productivity and compliance. Equally important, they can help the physician engage one-to-one with their patients and create a bridge to the community to transition quickly from “newcomer” to “hometown doctor.”
Be Creative, but Stay Out of the Fast Lane
Be careful in how you tailor a package for a particular candidate, and always be mindful of the legal and tax-related implications. Benefits, incentives, bonuses and perks can seem interchangeable, so it’s important to be clear and consistent. Don’t assume the candidate understands the terms in the way you intend.
Follow the four C’s:
- Competitive base salary
- Clearly defined and firmly aligned with your organization’s goals
- Compliant with physician fair market value standards and non-discrimination laws
- Communicated effectively
Be strategic in how you position your differentiators in your recruitment outreach and in negotiations. Sullivan Cotter Associates, a consulting firm specializing in physician compensation, advises that you create a “total compensation statement.” A simple summary of a physician’s individual benefits and what they cost can be a very powerful communication device, and it can highlight the real value of the benefits that may otherwise be taken for granted.
A Function for Every Part
Just as in a car, each part of your compensation package has a function. Building the right package will depend on your recruiting goals and what will appeal to the type of physician who will fit well in your practice and community. Just like “Mater” in the movie “Cars,” you’ll both want to say: “I knew it! I ‘knowed’ I made a good choice!”