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7 Best Practices for Physician Onboarding

Best Practices for Physician Onboarding
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Recruiting the right physician for your practice requires a significant amount of time and effort from multiple parties including recruiters, administrators, physicians, and medical staff. In addition to time, it can also be a costly endeavor requiring a substantial investment from both the organization and the provider. After the countless telephone calls, interviews, meetings, and negotiations have finally managed to yield a signed contract and a start date, it is normal to breathe a sigh of relief and feel a sense of accomplishment. It is normal to pat yourself on the back and then move on to the next recruit. However, it is now that the work has really just begun.

Unfortunately, this is when many healthcare organizations fall short. It is often during this time that some physicians are left to sink or swim. Leaving a provider feeling undervalued and frustrated is ultimately increasing the chance for turnover or unnecessary lag in performance, negatively impacting the bottom line. The period between the contract being signed and the provider joining their new medical community is often a time of significant transition. Many physicians can feel disconnected which can ultimately lead to unnecessary attrition.

It is now that the provider needs to feel the most supported by the organization. It is now that your recruit needs help navigating the health system and its culture; it is now that they need support from their colleagues, and it is now they need to feel accepted by the community. It is now that they expect your leadership, and it is now that you can provide them with a sense of value and satisfaction. It is now that you have the opportunity to help build a practice that can positively impact the lives of patients, providers, employees, and the organization for years to come.

Why is Onboarding so Important?

The average cost to turn over a physician is $1.2 million. In addition, the physician candidate pool is steadily decreasing. Effective onboarding is not just another task to add to everyone’s already hectic schedules. It is not just another meeting that needs to be attended. It is an essential process that improves productivity and helps to reduce turnover, ultimately increasing revenue and enhancing physician satisfaction and engagement.  It is a necessary part of the recruitment and employment process that cannot be ignored or forgotten.

What Should Onboarding Consist Of?

Effective Onboarding is not just the job of the recruiter, human resources, or administration. It involves multiple departments including recruitment, credentialing, human resources, IT, marketing, and medical staff just to name a few.

Below are seven best practices for creating an efficient onboarding process that enables a smooth transition:

1. Create an Onboarding Plan

Always start with a plan. Develop a master onboarding/orientation plan with a detailed list of items for credentialing, enrolling, and explaining the orientation process. Include a timeline and the appropriate staff member responsible for each area. Assign a project manager or point person to handle all aspects of the orientation. The project manager should serve as the key liaison for administrators and providers to ensure the process goes smoothly and stays on schedule. It is also beneficial to assign a physician mentor to help ensure integration into the new group, culture, and community. According to Healthcare Finance News, groups that assign a mentor during onboarding reported a lower overall turnover rate.

2. Inform Proper Channels

Before the new physician’s start date, it is important to alert all the proper channels. This includes informing the medical staff, hospital staff, referral groups, or partners and any other contract groups that the new provider will be joining the practice.  Send a welcome packet including company policies and procedures and a physician directory so the provider can become familiar with referring physicians ahead of time.

3. Provide Networking Opportunities

Whether it is a medical staff meeting, an after-hours event, or meet & greet luncheon, it is crucial to provide a new physician with the ability to make connections with other providers inside the practice, the healthcare system, and the community. The first few weeks are a perfect time to organize a networking event, attend community events, or even spend time in the doctor’s lounge, making introductions and building relationships with potential referral sources. If your hospital does not have a liaison to help facilitate meetings with physician offices outside the hospital, encourage the provider to do so with the support of the organization.

Also, it is important to remember that family profoundly influences the physician’s long-term satisfaction. Providing opportunities for physicians and their families to network among each other allows them to feel more connected and grow roots in their community. A weekly communication from a designated administrator/staff with family assistance, such as real estate, getting kids in school, etc. can be essential during the initial relocation and transitional period.

4. Communicate Regularly

Communication is crucial during the recruitment and onboarding process to ensure the provider is satisfied, engaged, and assimilates well in your organization.  It is equally essential throughout a provider’s career with your organization. Whether it is the project manager or an administrator, it is important that someone is continuously following up and communicating with the provider to ensure there are no issues and their needs are being met. Transparency, trust, and communication are the best ways to ensure a long-term mutually beneficial provider partnership.

5. Track Progress

Review the master onboarding plan and continuously track progress every 15, 30, 60, 90 days to ensure successful completion.

6. Track Growth

The first few months are often the slowest for new providers, but it is essential that physicians are encouraged to use that time to recruit new patients and referral sources. Track a provider’s growth and also review the patient experience of the practice. This is an excellent time to address any efficiency, personnel, equipment, or other challenges as they arise. If providers are feeling discouraged that they are not receiving enough patient referrals, put together a plan of action to help them meet their goal. Taking a proactive rather than a reactive approach will better serve everyone and help ensure there are no unexpected surprises.

7. Review the Process and Follow Up

Develop a survey regarding the recruitment and onboarding process to help identify areas for improvement. Schedule on-going follow up visits with new providers to ensure they are adjusting, satisfied, and engaging with their peers, in the community, and within the organization. In this rapidly changing environment, a well-structured onboarding plan can help increase physician satisfaction, reduce attrition, and improve the overall success of the physician and the practice.

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About Anne Carrie

Anne Carrie holds an MBA in Healthcare Management and a BS in Marketing. Her experience includes over 10 years of healthcare marketing, administration, recruiting, and business development. She has over 4 years of healthcare writing, copywriting, and editing experience for Hospitals, Medical Practices, and Medical/Healthcare companies. Her work has been published in Becker's Hospital Review, Medical Practice Insider, Physicians Practice, DenistryIQ, HealthITOutcomes, and other healthcare related publications.