What to Consider When Your Hospital Is Hiring Physicians

What to Consider When Your Hospital Is Hiring Physicians
Marketing Director

Chances are your hospital is considering hiring on-staff physicians or has begun to do so already. According to physician search firm Merritt Hawkins, the percentage of physicians employed by hospitals jumped from 11 percent in 2004 to 64 percent in 2014.

This shift can come at a cost, according to a 2011 article published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Its authors found hospitals “lose $150,000 to $250,000 per year over the first three years of employing a physician.”

Every doctor you hire affects your hospital’s metrics on safety, patient satisfaction, disruptive behaviors, malpractice risks and employee engagement, says Todd Spohn, Director of Healthcare at Talent Plus. The losses turn around, but only if the physician stays at the organization, which highlights the importance of making the right hire.

This isn’t the first time healthcare organizations have experimented with hiring doctors. Hospitals went on a physician hiring spree in the mid-1990s, Spohn says, but hospitals “got burned” by big salaries that didn’t take productivity and quality caps on payments into consideration. “Today, it’s a different scenario: There are different employment values, including care quality and the patient’s standpoint. That’s why they’re looking at it differently.”

4 Things to Look for in a Physician Hire

Whether you’ve been employing physicians at your organization for some time or are just now considering bringing them on staff, there are several things your HR department should keep in mind.

  • Cultural Fit

When hiring, you want to ensure the physician will quickly and easily adjust to your hospital’s way of doing things and will work well with existing staff members. CHG Healthcare Services Vice President of Quality Management Susan Collier suggests examining each physician candidate’s:

  • Friendliness.
  • Willingness to learn new systems and procedures.
  • Interest in the types of patients they will be caring for.
  • Attitude toward teamwork and willingness to help other staff members.

Healthcare is significantly behind other industries when it comes to hiring for fit, Spohn says. While industries such as hospitality, service and manufacturing have realized the importance of cultural fit, healthcare is only now considering it more regularly when hiring. “We’re seeing a huge demand and interest from healthcare.”

  • Consistent Work Experience

Strong, steady doctors will likely be strong, steady employees. “Physicians who have unexplained gaps on their CVs or who jump from position to position every few months or so may be unreliable or be trying to hide a malpractice claim or other issues from their employers,” Collier says. If you see any concerns on an otherwise solid resume from a good candidate, don’t be afraid to ask more questions and do more research.

  • Education That Matches Work History

For example, an orthopedic surgeon who has spent the last 10 years working as a family practitioner should raise a red flag, especially if he is unable to adequately explain his career change, Collier says.

  • Strong References

Check up with a candidate’s former co-workers to find out about how he works with others and whether there were overhead costs and debts in a private practice that weren’t resolved, Collier says. “If you are unable to reach a physician's contacts or get evasive answers about his work, you may need to ask the physician further questions before hiring him or proceed with a different candidate,” she says. And while a physician may have a good reason for quitting a previous hospital job, you should try to find out what you can about the situation.

Why Hospitals Must Make Good Hires

There’s a lot at stake in employing doctors, Spohn says. Healthcare organizations rely on their brand and reputation, and anyone associated with that brand, including staff physicians, can affect it. Disruptive doctors can affect not only your brand but also your quality scores and reimbursements. Rigorous background checks, candidate screenings and hiring procedures can help you ensure you get the right fit for your organization.

PreCheck Background Screening Resource Kit