What changes are you seeing in how organizations view the ways they manage physician supply?
In order to maintain long term stability, it is important for organizations to thoroughly understand physician supply and the activities of providers in the market, not just within their employed group. By quantifying the supply and benchmarking it against demand, market anomalies can often be highlighted when they are analyzed side by side with new patient access metrics and productivity measures.
Often, what seems like a shortage is really an inefficiency or some other productivity barrier. A compounding problem for specialty practices can be inappropriate referrals. At one hospital, for example, the rapidly increasing wait times for a spine surgery new patient appointment had leaders considering the recruitment of two additional surgeons. A quick glance showed that the market was oversupplied; a deeper dive revealed their physicians were performing surgery on about 10% of their new patients. The true problem was an influx of direct referrals to the specialty that had bypassed interventions with physical therapy or pain management. Instead of recruiting two new physicians, the system added a nurse navigator and a physician assistant to screen referrals and redirect interventions of many patients prior to a surgical consult. This solution got surgeons back to focusing on procedures and decreased the wait time for new patient appointments.
With health systems across the nation struggling with physician supply challenges, how are your clients approaching physician recruitment?
Groups are becoming more proactive and less reactive. Instead of waiting for a recruitment request and then assessing need, savvy organizations are proactively assessing the market. They identify vulnerabilities such as aging providers, or opportunities like changing demographics, so they can begin searching for providers before a sudden deficiency occurs. Organizations are also assessing and tightening up their recruitment processes and finding creative ways to engage a younger generation of providers to improve their chances of attracting a wide talent pool. Finally, many groups are exploring a “grow your own” approach by partnering with medical schools or establishing GME programs to address their recurring needs. With many experts forecasting a growing physician shortage, it is critical to use multiple strategies to proactively address both recruitment and retention.
With the shortage of physician time, does technology have a role to play or is technology part of the problem?
Technology can be both the problem and the solution to maximizing physician time. One of the biggest problems is reduced physician productivity. While many physicians believe that EMR causes them to be less productive, that is only part of the problem. It’s true that a clunky EMR process flow can slow down physicians in their day-to-day schedule, but a well-optimized EMR with a streamlined office flow can actually increase throughput, particularly if it is coupled with a more thoughtful approach to patient scheduling. Many systems are also looking to solutions like virtual visits to optimize physician time.