Is He Happy and You Know It?

January 10, 2008

You've done it: You've found the perfect candidate.

You've done it: You've found the perfect candidate. But that's no surprise. You and your management team gave thoughtful, deliberate attention to recruiting a desirable physician for your practice. You took time to clearly define anticipated expenses. You prepared a fair and reasonable compensation plan. You successfully negotiated an agreement and carefully crafted the contract terms. Everything is signed... Welcome aboard, Dr. New!

Great job. Unfortunately, many recruiting plans come to a full stop at this point, failing to help Dr. New acclimate post-welcome.

Practices usually recruit when demand exceeds capacity, so it makes sense that physicians and staff -- burdened with their existing workload -- will have little time to dedicate to Dr. New. The result? Often, Dr. New becomes Dr. Gone.

Don't sabotage your stellar recruiting process by failing to structure an assimilation plan for your new physician. What a waste of everyone's time. To help you avoid this, here are some important factors to consider that will facilitate a smooth transition and improve your chances of retaining your new physician:

  • Identify the new physician's role in advance. What types of patients will he see? Will patient selection be based on his areas of interest, your patient demographics, or simply on handling your overload? How will new patients be assigned? Will they be scheduled for the next available appointment as a work-in, or on a round-robin pattern? Whatever method you choose should be consistent and communicated in advance.

 

 

  • Develop a formal introduction and orientation process so Dr. New will know where to turn for answers. Schedule a day with the office manager to discuss policies, protocols, and other important issues, such as support staff. At the same time, your staff needs to understand what is expected of them in terms of supporting the new physician. Schedule a formal pre-launch meeting between your newest physician and your nurses, scheduler, and front-desk personnel to discuss scheduling templates, time allotted for various appointment types, and how telephone calls are managed.

 

 

  • Assign a physician-mentor for Dr. New to shadow for a few days.

 

 

  • Introduce your new physician to the community and your existing patients. Definitely add Dr. New to your Web site and to your telephone message system. Here are a few other ideas to consider:

 

 

  • A social event for referring physicians;

 

 

  • A newspaper ad;

 

 

  • A letter to physicians and patients;

 

 

  • An easel in the reception room with a photo and biographical sketch that includes Dr. New's personal and business profile;

 

 

  • A flyer distributed to each staff member; and

 

 

  • A feature story in your practice newsletter.

 

 

  • If your new doctor provides a new service to the community, try pitching a feature story to the local media.

 

 

  • Set up productivity goals. How many patients will he be expected to see the first week? The first month? By the end of six months? How does this contribute to projected revenue and your break-even point?

 

 

  • Clearly define other practical expectations as well. For example, if physicians are expected to be in the office ten minutes before their first appointment, or if chart documentation and phone calls are expected to be complete at the end of each clinic session, this should be communicated in advance.

During the first month, your physicians and office manager should meet with Dr. New at the end of each week to discuss concerns and address any issues that may have emerged. Consider the new doctor's first six months on the job to be a tutorial on how your practice is run -- not just teaching him clinical expectations, but also what is required to maximize efficiency and keep your work flow moving.

 

Resist rushing this whole process. When Dr. New's first anniversary rolls around you'll be glad you did.

Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant with more than 20 years of experience. She is also the founder of Capko & Company (www.capko.com). Her emphasis is on improving practice performance by valuing staff, building patient-centered strategies, and making the most of resources. She is the author of the top-selling book "Secrets of the Best-Run Practices," Greenbranch Publishing. Judy has received national recognition in her field, working with both small and large practices, as well as major academic faculty practices from coast to coast. She is a popular speaker for major healthcare conferences and healthcare executive summits. She can be reached at judy@capko.com or 805 499 9203.