5 Strategies for Physician Recruitment in Competitive Markets From ASC Administrator Christy Franck

Christy Franck, administrator at Montgomery Surgery Center in Rockville, Md., knows that understanding the competition in one's market is crucial to effective physician recruitment. Located just half an hour out of Washington, D.C., Ms. Franck's surgery center is in a market with a plethora of single- and multi-specialty surgery centers that often vie for the same physicians. Here she shares five strategies for approaching the physician recruitment process in a way that meaningfully distinguishes a surgery center in a challenging market.

1. Research and assess the competition from other centers. According to the Maryland Healthcare Commission, there are more than 300 licensed surgery centers in the state, which means that an individual center must make a compelling case in order to convince a surgeon to move. In order to do this, Ms. Franck first determines which type of centers may also be trying to recruit the same physicians.

Because Montgomery Surgery Center is multi-specialty, Ms. Franck is mindful of any single-specialty centers nearby — she knows that certain physicians may be more attracted to a smaller center that focuses exclusively on one type of case, and she adjusts her specialty recruitment targets accordingly.

"If there are several GI centers right around you, you probably will not recruit GI physicians because they'll love going to a GI-only center," Ms. Franck said.

2. Anticipate a new physician's priorities. In a market where surgery centers are hungry to recruit a limited number of physicians, a willingness to compromise and accommodate is a helpful asset. Ms. Franck recommends having an open discussion with potential new physicians about their preferences and any difficulties they've had with past surgery centers in order to increase their comfort level with the center.

Topics of discussion may include frustrations with case scheduling, out-of-network insurance plans, preferences for particular brands of products or a center's ability to handle a high case volume. To anticipate issues ahead of time, Ms. Franck will consult the center's current partners about their own experiences.

"We try to find out from surgeons that already come here, 'What are your obstacles somewhere else? What can we do to make things easier?'" said Ms. Franck. "We'll also emphasize that we have an experienced staff. Physicians have to be comfortable with their clinical team and know that they'll been taken care of once they're here."

3. Offer to make concessions. Approaching the physician recruitment process with a "customer service" mindset is important in distinguishing oneself from a competing center, and this includes a willingness to make concessions to satisfy the physician. 

Once a physician's preferences and concerns are on the table, Ms. Franck said, it's up to the center to weigh the cost of accommodating a physician against the revenue that his or her cases will bring to the center. If an ENT surgeon expresses a preference for a certain type of ear tubes, for example, the center is typically willing to purchase that product in order to bring the physician in.

The act of accommodating a physician often requires significantly less effort than the benefits it reaps, Ms. Franck says. By spending some money to accommodate a new physician, the surgery center can increase profit through additional case volume and build physician loyalty.   

"From a business standpoint, it's beneficial to accommodate a physician if you can," said Ms. Franck. "Physicians appreciate us listening to them and finding out what it is that they would like to see happen in the center. If we can help them, they'll bring their business to us."

4. Ask current employees to recommend new physicians. Existing physicians should play an active, ongoing role in the recruitment process. With more than 100 physicians performing cases, Montgomery Surgery Center uses its staff as a crucial resource for insight on which physicians to contact.

It's often ideal for physicians to communicate directly with potential recruits, Ms. Franck said.  Longstanding social ties and mutual backgrounds between physicians create an automatic sense of trust and credibility.

Ms. Franck also asks the support staff, including the OR team and surgical technicians, for information on physicians they've previously worked with who may be interested in bringing cases to the center.

5. Make recruitment an ongoing priority. A center that continually works to attract physician talent will be more likely to weather future blows to case volume, including physician retirement or unanticipated moves. Ms. Franck tries to maintain an ongoing awareness of the recruitment climate in the state, knowing full well that an ideal physician partner is not something she is likely to stumble upon solely in a moment of need.

Maryland prints a physician directory book, which Ms. Franck uses for reference in addition to regular Internet searches to monitor physicians near the center's location in Rockville.

"I try to use anything I can to compile," said Ms. Franck. "If I'm focusing on ENT, I try to find a list of all ENT surgeons in the area, then go to our current medical staff and ask if they know or can recommend any of them. Anything that's on the table for us to use, we take advantage of. "

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