Physician-recruiting Strategies for Radiology
David Anderson, CPAIn spite of downturns in volumes and concerns about further reimbursement cuts, radiology physician recruiting remains a seller’s market, at least for the time being. More groups are looking for radiologists than there are qualified candidates, putting pressure on practices to optimize their recruiting techniques. While the recent changes in the health care industry might eventually lead to a reversal of this situation, for the time being, economic uncertainty is actually heightening the importance of effective physician recruiting. What does your practice have to offer potential recruits—and what are those recruits looking for in a practice? What are other practices putting on the table, and how can you stay competitive? In many cases, the answers to these questions align neatly with strategic best practices. Recruits are hoping to join a group that will be able to survive the turmoil to come, and even the seemingly ancillary benefits they expect mirror industry trends toward improved efficiency and productivity. Defining Expectations According to the results of the annual radiology survey conducted by Medical Management Professionals Inc (MMP), Atlanta, Georgia, which averages results reported by approximately 45 radiology groups from across the country, the typical starting salary for a nonshareholder radiologist in 2009 was $330,000, reflecting little upward movement since 2007. The average vacation time offered was 11 weeks; 95% of groups paid for malpractice coverage and family health insurance, 65% paid for disability insurance, and 50% paid for dental coverage. Groups often fall short in explaining the true value of the package that they are offering potential recruits. When presenting a salary offer, it is worthwhile to calculate the amount that benefits add to the figure on the table. Health insurance is, obviously, increasingly costly, and malpractice coverage can represent a large sum as well. If your group is contemplating a move toward a productivity-based compensation model, or even toward evaluating your physicians based on productivity, you should share your expectations in terms of annual RVUs per individual. Another critical factor to share is historical income paths and projected income paths for new recruits. MMP’s most recent radiology survey found that the average time to reach shareholder status has decreased since 2007—once, it was steady at two years, but today, new recruits to the average group can expect to become partners after 1.5 years. Sharing with recruits what they will make at the partnership level is important in presenting an accurate picture of what your group has to offer, and it helps define your expectations for their participation in the business side of the practice. Cleary delineating these expectations will become increasingly critical as much of the current generation of leaders retires in the coming years. Groups should have an eye on any potential leadership gaps and should adjust their recruitment strategies accordingly. Research indicates that members of generations X and Y are less likely to be interested in assuming a leadership role in radiology, making it particularly important to define partnership expectations for new physicians. With so many changes occurring in the industry, strong leadership—and a strong succession plan that guarantees that there will be no significant interruption of that leadership—could be what rescues a practice from hospital employment. Attracting Recruits While a salary-and-benefits package commensurate with other practices’ offerings is important to the recruiting process, it is equally critical to offer potential new physicians the ancillary features that they want—and sometimes, even expect. For instance, today’s medical students work with sophisticated IT solutions that maximize their efficiency, and radiology recruits will expect to see similar platforms in place at practices. In other words, if your PACS is behind the times, upgrading it is key to making your group attractive to recruits. While your current radiologists might be acclimated to using it, new radiologists will want to work as effectively and efficiently as they did in training. This is one instance where what prospective new physicians are seeking corresponds with best business practices. Another example is third-party after-hours coverage. The majority of groups already outsource night call to teleradiology providers, enabling them to provide the continual service that hospitals have come to expect without overextending their resources by requiring their own physicians to work the late shift. Outsourcing night call has become an industry standard, and groups still handling their own nighttime interpretations will find themselves fighting an uphill battle when it comes to recruiting: Younger physicians will expect the service to be provided, and older physicians changing practices might well be doing so in search of the better lifestyle that outsourcing helps provide. Recruits also, of course, are seeking practices with a solid business foundation, and that means good hospital relationships, above all else. If your group can advertise a multiyear, exclusive hospital contract, you have the edge over a group in the midst of negotiations. Practices with strong contracts in place might even want to consider introducing serious candidates to hospital administrators, so they can ask questions and see for themselves the quality of the relationship. The more a group can allay candidates’ fears or uncertainties about its future as a business, the more effective its recruiting will be. Taking an organized approach to recruiting will simplify the process for both your group and your potential new physicians. Prepare a packet for recruits that includes a detailed breakdown of your offer (including salary and the approximate monetary value of any benefits), a copy of the employment agreement, and information on your group’s bylaws and its buy-in and buy-out calculations. The goal here is to pull back the curtain on how your practice operates, creating transparency and defining expectations. Do not undervalue the importance of recruits’ experience in visiting your practice. Although it sounds basic, groups often neglect the personal touches that can show a candidate the culture of the business that he or she is contemplating joining. Leaders should take candidates and their spouses to dinner, allowing them to get to know the personalities of their potential future business partners and giving spouses the opportunity to ask questions as well. Showing candidates that you are willing to invest in making them comfortable and addressing their concerns is the final step in optimizing your recruiting process. David Anderson, CPA, is vice president of practice management for Medical Management Professionals (MMP), Atlanta, Georgia.