The Exponent

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Build a Successful Physician Onboarding Program in 5 Steps

By: Carrie Bennett | August 11, 2017

During the past two decades I’ve been a recruiter, liaison, service line administrator, and business development director. That experience has given me a wealth of insight into the potential pitfalls of improper onboarding of new physicians, and in this blog I’d like to share that insight.


The best hospital and clinic administrations know that a strategic and intentionally constructed onboarding program is critical to the success of newly acquired providers. These teams are not alone. According to retention surveys collected by groups like Cejka Search and the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), medical groups see about 7% turnover. Additionally, it’s not unusual for a hospital to lose half the physicians it recruits over five years. A methodized approach to onboarding takes an initial investment of resources for your organization. However, more structured onboarding will yield results that are sustainable and far-reaching by increasing physician satisfaction and loyalty and by preventing lost income that accompanies turnover and errors associated with credentialing, billing, and other processes that come with employing physicians.


Here are five steps to implement in your organization to build a more successful physician onboarding program:

1. Bridge the transition gap. There’s a period of time between a physician signing on with your organization and joining their new community; during this transition time, new physicians sometimes report feeling a disconnect. This feeling, along with other stressors related to taking on a new position, can lead to unwanted attrition. Make the effort to identify all the touchpoints within your organization that can help new physicians bridge potential gaps during that transitional phase. In my experience, these often include recruitment, relocation, credentialing, orientation/practice integration, system integration, practice development, and community integration.


2. Eliminate obstacles in the way of growth. During recruitment and onboarding of new physicians, education is essential to ensure they assimilate well into your organization’s growth strategies. Be committed to transparency by having candid conversations about expectations on both sides (e.g. a physician’s need for certain equipment and staff, or your expectations that he or she will reach a specific level of productivity in a given amount of time). This type of open communication can be the key to a lasting and mutually beneficial partnership. In addition, don’t forget to give new physicians the lay of the land when it comes to your organization’s political dynamics, which can be difficult for new entrants to navigate without help.


3. Foster growth through strategic partnerships. One crucial element of the onboarding process is to give your new physician the ability to make connections with others inside the practice, the health system, and the community at large. Use the business intelligence at your disposal to be the conduit for your newly employed physicians to build strategic partnerships with operational leaders, referral partners, and others who will enable your physicians to successfully care for his or her patients.


4. Acknowledge and support life outside the practice. According to recent surveys, about 85% of physician relocations are influenced by the needs of their family. Considering this statistic, the attention you pay to the wellbeing of your new physician’s family is not only valuable, it’s crucial to that physician’s long-term satisfaction with your organization. Provide new physicians and their families with networking opportunities and other resources that will allow them to grow strong roots in your community.


5. Ensure long-term retention through regular followup. In an ideal world, physician attrition wouldn’t exist and you could recruit and onboard new physicians, make sure they’re happy, and move on to the next. However, real life isn’t like that at all. Remembering to check in with new physicians is easy when they’re in the middle of onboarding and have pressing concerns to take care of on a regular basis. It’s keeping up a regular cadence of check-ins post-onboarding that’s the issue, but it’s an important step to remember in order to keep doctors happy with your organization. Schedule regular maintenance visits with new physicians after the typical onboarding period ends to ensure they’re adjusting well, and whether or not they need additional professional or personal support to smooth their ongoing transition. Making a habit of this will ensure that nothing unexpected comes up at contract renewal time and threatens their willingness to stay on with your organization.


These five steps will get you well on your way to a structured approach to onboarding that will help increase satisfaction, reduce attrition, and yield the outcomes your organization looks for in a newly acquired physician. Follow the next post in this onboarding series, “How to Map Out your Touchpoints to Maximize New Physician Engagement.”