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Effective Physician Onboarding Saves Time, Money


Welcoming a new physician to your practice goes beyond credentialing and orientation. It also includes marketing, integration into the team, and mentoring.

A lot of effort goes into recruiting the very best physicians into a practice, but falling short during the onboarding process can leave that physician feeling unsatisfied and the practice dealing with turnover. Though it may feel like one more thing to add to an already full plate of tasks at a practice, comprehensive onboarding should be taken seriously, emphasized Allison McCarthy and Susan Boydell, principal and consultant respectively at physician relations and recruitment firm Barlow McCarthy. Their presentation, "Effective Onboarding: Critical for Retention of New Recruits," provided tips to practice managers at the 2014 Medical Group Management Association Annual Conference on Tues., Oct. 28.

"Onboarding is not just a nice thing to do," McCarthy said. "It has an impact on the bottom line of your organization."

Why Focus on Onboarding?

Effective onboarding helps reduce turnover by decreasing recruitment costs and it improves "time to productivity," to get that new physician up to peak performance. The first two years are a very vulnerable time for new recruits, said McCarthy, and it is essential that practices ensure new ph

ysicians have the support they need so they are satisfied and engaged at the practice.

Ideally, there is a team of people that help monitor and mentor during the onboarding process so new recruits have ample support and no one slips through the cracks. A group effort also helps to identify any chronic problems that come up during the onboarding process. Be honest with new recruits so they know what to expect. Though this may feel uncomfortable at times, it's better to address these things right away than to have these issues escalate to urgent or even more embarrassing situations. "The worst thing for a new recruit is to be embarrassed because they didn't know something about the company culture," McCarthy said.

Onboarding Components

Onboarding should consist of four main aspects: credentialing and employment, orientation, marketing, and staff integration, according to McCarthy. If possible, make laborious paperwork and similar tasks available in an online portal so that physicians can access these items separate from orientation; there's no reason to waste time on these tasks in a classroom session during onboarding.

The recruiter knows why the physician was brought into the team, so make sure everyone else on the team realizes what the new recruit has to offer. "It takes a community to make sure a physician or provider is greatly satisfied," McCarthy said. Track the progress of paperwork, reviews, and meetings at various points-pre-boarding, week one, 30 days, 60 days, one year, etc.-throughout the onboarding process.

Assigning a mentor who serves as a social and professional sounding board will help ensure any concerns are addressed, but make sure those issues are addressed. The new physician should feel like he is moving forward in the onboarding process. McCarthy noted that doctors won't divulge everything to other doctors, so make sure there is another mentor such as a practice manager involved so that all concerns are noted and the recruited physician is satisfied with his progress.

Addressing Practice Growth

Once the new physician is on board, there should be a plan that measures and addresses the patient experience and ease of use at the practice.  When new physicians do not have the volume of patients they anticipated having, physician satisfaction may decrease, but part of the reason to recruit new physicians is also to recruit new patients. As such, noted Boydell, it is important to track the patient experience. "Embrace complaints because complaints will tell you where you have opportunity," she said, noting that a discourteous staff accounts for 68 percent of patient loss.

As new physicians market their services to colleagues and add referral partners, Boydell noted that practices should be accessible and attractive to new patients. This not only includes creating a welcoming environment at the physical location of a practice but also ensuring there is a consistent, accessible, and inviting presence online, in social media, and patient portals.

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