Endoscopy Center of the North Shore Medical Director talks recruiting GI fellows in private practice

Manoj Mehta, MD, is medical director at the Endoscopy Center of the North Shore in Wilmette, Ill.

Dr. Mehta will serve on the panel “The Next 5 Years of GI” at Becker’s ASC Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker’s is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference on Oct. 27-29 in Chicago.

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Question: What is the smartest thing you've done in the last year to set your organization up for success?

Manoj Mehta: Not really in the last year, but I think the smartest thing I've done since starting my own business has been to invest in my employees. I have offered them bonuses, gifts, lunches and other perks that are not so unusual. I've also offered them full employee benefits, something that was a very difficult hurdle as a small business owner. Beyond this, we have allowed work from home as much as possible and I've supported an employee who has gone back to school full time while working here part-time. Although none of this is really driven by anything more than a true desire to give my employees the respect and recognition they deserve, it has paid dividends due to the unexpected recent hard times. In a very difficult environment, we have maintained 100% employee retention. Investing in your employees is a win-win.

Q: What are you most excited about right now and what makes you nervous?

MM: There are exciting developments on the horizon, for example the use of artificial intelligence in polyp detection, and in risk stratification based on results. Some of these are already commercially available, for example the GIGenius AI system which we were the first to trial in the state. I'm certainly excited about similar technologies coming together. While changes are exciting, they also almost always create some anxiety. Will colonoscopy be less and less a first-line choice, and more of a therapeutic option after some other test has suggested underlying pathology? I think the answer is likely yes. Two things I would say about it, however. One is that we have been making these predictions for many years, at least for 20 years if you consider the discussions about virtual colonoscopy. And yet, not much change. Secondly, if there are better and cheaper alternatives to colonoscopy, that's always in the patient's best interest. Bottom line, it is the right thing to do. As gastroenterologists, we will evolve also — and find other ways that we can help patients. As a parallel, consider the work that we do that takes traditional surgical approaches out of the hands of surgeons. There are almost no surgeries done for ulcer disease now, for example. However, the GI surgeons are doing bariatric surgeries, endoscopic myotomies, anti-reflux procedures and a whole host of new approaches. I foresee similar opportunities for us in the future.

Q: How are you thinking about growth over the next 12 months?

MM: For me, growth over the next 12 months focuses mainly on increasing recognition amongst the GI fellows about the opportunities in private practice. Young people are less and less interested in going into private practice, and more likely to stay at the academic institution at which they trained, or one similar to it. I think part of this is the long, long postgraduate educational process. The fellows have been the victim of a form of institutionalization. They have been in training so long, written so many papers, presented so many posters and worked at the bigger institution for so long that they cannot envision anything else. We need a platform to change this, as the current institutional platform is clearly self-serving.

Q: What will healthcare executives and leaders need to be effective leaders for the next five years?

MM: Healthcare executives and leaders need to look well beyond the next five years. Unfortunately, we live in a world of quarterly profit statements, today's shareholder price, and year-end bonuses. This is a big part of what keeps us in a stagnant position in healthcare economics. There is no single insurance provider willing to look 10 years down the road and say "this is what we need to do today, even though it costs money up front, to save us money and take care of patients in the long run." No insurance executive is willing to lose his or her year-end bonus over something farsighted. Until this changes, I think our current problems are here to stay.

Q: What is your strategy for recruiting and retaining great teams? 

MM: I've been lucky to have great personnel around me. Most of these engagements have been relatively serendipitous. An employee might recommend a friend who would be a good fit. I've had two sets of family members who all turned out to be great employees. A nurse who was working part-time at the hospital has become one of my best employees. I've also seen employees who were slower to start pick up very nicely with appropriate coaching and incentives. Managing personnel is an ongoing process. There's a lot more to it than hiring and a 30-day review. It takes constant attention, while recognizing that we are all human beings with individual needs beyond the job description.

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