A lot has changed in primary care over the last decade. The workforce is aging, Science Daily reports that physicians are retiring at a rate of 18 percent annually, and many medical students simply don’t have a desire to practice primary care medicine, preferring instead to specialize in the interests of prestige, higher salaries, and better work/life balance. These factors have contributed to a severe nationwide shortage of physicians. It’s harder than ever to recruit a physician to join your practice — demand simply outpaces supply. But no physician fully engaged in his or her community wants to retire and risk losing his legacy, or the connections he’s built with his patients over the course of decades. Finding that replacement, however, is an arduous process for which physicians often aren’t prepared.
The national cost average for hiring a newly recruited primary care physician is $25,000, but agencies can charge anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000 for their services. If you’re an aging or retiring physician faced with the decision to sunset your practice because you don’t yet have a replacement, read on for information you can use to make the process of recruiting a worthy candidate as painless and inexpensive as possible.
Start well in advance. Very well in advance.
Recruiting a primary care physician requires an intensive process that often takes 12 to 18 months; even longer if a physician is coming from out of state. Consider all of the factors it takes to identify a candidate: first, you must launch your recruitment campaign by developing an advertisement and posting it on all relevant job boards. To build your candidate pool, you will also need to broadcast to third-year residents and the appropriate physician networks. All CVs must be reviewed before scheduling initial phone interviews and qualified candidates will be invited to an on-site interview for a more thorough evaluation. In addition to introducing the selected candidate to the other clinicians in the practice, professional references must also be contacted. After composing and presenting an offer, the inevitable contract negotiations can take several weeks to work through. Once the signature is inked on the contract, the credentialing process can begin, which often takes 3-4 months. If an out-of-state candidate has accepted, he or she must to apply for a license to work in your state. All told, you’re looking at no less than a year — if everything worked like clockwork — and it never does.
Forge connections with your local medical schools and residency programs — early.
It’s true that a lot of med school students aren’t entering primary care, but here’s one way to make yourself more attractive: network. To stand out in the crowd, it’s important to establish a relationship with your local residency programs and medical schools by taking on students for clinical rotations. If you have the capacity to engage in a teaching program, residents will be invited to evaluate their fit within your practice, just as you will evaluate the same. This strategy can be effective in the long-run, but establishing the connection and rapport can take five years or more, so start this tactic early.
“…but if you run a smaller independent practice, don’t underestimate your own allure”
Play up your “weaknesses” as assets.
Fifty-provider groups vs. solo practitioners; multispeciality vs. single specialty; urban vs. rural. In general, bigger multispecialty groups, with their ancillary services and dispersed risk, are more attractive to physicians looking to be recruited — but if you run a smaller independent practice, don’t underestimate your own allure. A multitude of unpredictable factors make different practices attractive to different doctors. Say you run a small rural practice; you might have luck targeting doctors who work for hospitals or health systems and want to experience self-employment. Of course, they must also be willing to work a couple of years in a mentorship position under your tutelage. But if you position yourself as an independent doctor, the decision-maker, and one who is able to forge close relationships with your patients because of that freedom, you’re now a viable option to them. What’s more, evidence suggests that in the long run, independent physicians have higher compensation compared to their counterparts in large health systems. While specific qualities of your practice may not draw the masses, they will eventually draw the right physicians to your doorstep.
Privia built an internal physician recruitment program in early 2016 to support our Care Centers by removing the time consuming and costly burden of recruiting new talent. We recruit physicians and advanced practitioners for the purposes of practice growth, replacement, succession planning, and program development. Our physician recruitment team is involved in a full-cycle process, from writing the job advertisement to facilitating a successful credentialing and onboarding term. If you are interested in engaging in the service or would like to learn more, you can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.