Physician shortage is on the rise within the United States with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projecting physician shortfall to be between 40,800 and 104,900 by the year 2030. Part of this shortage is due to physicians who are projected to retire during this timeframe – however, demographic trends continue to be the primary driver of increasing demand.
Primary care specialties, including family and internal medicine, are the most competitive to fill. In addition, other hard-to-fill specialty positions include dermatology, gastroenterology, neurology, and psychiatry.
Whether recruiting primary care or specialty care, provider recruitment continues to be a challenge facing health care systems and physician practices. This can be especially true in more rural markets where 20% of Americans live, according to the American Hospital Association (AHA). Not only do less than 8% of physicians practice in rural markets today but facilities serving smaller communities report higher physician turnover. This can mean that recruiters in these areas of the country may carry higher than median search loads.
Many hospitals and health care organizations have dedicated physician recruitment staff to help fill health care needs within the community. This role was created to help limit some of the costs tied to using search firms or headhunters specifically focused on sourcing physician candidates. In-house recruitment teams gained further popularity when provider retention trends indicated a need to be more intentional with both sourcing and vetting candidates. As in-house physician recruiters live in the same communities as the hospitals and health care organizations they serve, they are in a unique position to identify the best matches on behalf of candidates and the opportunities they represent. They also have the access and insights needed to partner with internal stakeholders to kick off efforts related to onboarding and retention.
According to reports from the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR), healthcare organizations are doing more searches than ever before with in-house physician recruitment teams. This same report indicates that physician searches are taking longer than ever. When it comes to optimizing your in-house recruitment team’s results, I have found that a physician recruitment playbook can provide a solid foundation for physician recruiters and operational leaders to implement best practices for the recruitment process.
A playbook is a manual with a set of strategies and methods that are tried and true practices designed to achieve success. Similarly, a physician recruitment playbook can serve as a guide for assisting operations and leadership on how to employ the best practices needed to recruit and retain physicians who fit with an organization’s mission and values. One of the first steps in the process of developing a playbook is to understand not only national physician recruitment market and trends but also trends specific to your geographic region and the specialties you are prioritizing. Some things I have typically asked as we prioritize positions and searches include:
- How many providers are available within your specialty of interest?
- How many of these are actively looking for a role?
- How many of these have ties to your area?
- What strategic sources will you need to build or leverage to gain visibility among these providers?
The next step in developing a physician recruitment playbook is to understand the key processes in a candidate pipeline. For example, some typical steps in the recruitment process can include:
Defining your process is only the beginning. Strong in-house recruitment teams have tightly defined timeframes for moving providers from one step of the process to the next. At Mercy Health, in-house recruiters were expected to follow up with candidates within 24 hours to initiate a relationship and determine potential fit. Similarly, department leaders were educated on the importance of timely processing and were expected to follow up by telephone within 48 -72 hours of being presented with a candidate.
By outlining your process and what is expected across each stage along the way you can map out, track performance and coach your team to fill vacancies, minimize days to fill and support stronger retention.