Physician recruitment is tough everywhere, but the challenge is even greater when you’re trying to grow a healthcare organization to serve the nation’s fastest growing community. Bob Trinh, CEO of The Villages Health (TVH), a multi-specialty healthcare system serving over 60,000 patients across nine care centers in The Villages, Florida, is meeting the challenge head on with creative strategies for hiring physicians.
“We’re continuing to hire the best talent so that we can meet the demand of The Villages growth,” says Trinh. “They’re selling 300 new homes and 300 resales per month. When new movers arrive, one of the first things they’re looking to do is establish a strong relationship with a primary care physician.”
Here are five key strategies for hiring physicians The Villages Health has adopted to address their recruitment challenges, while also keeping existing staff happy and engaged.
- Focus on slowing down
- Focus on support
- Focus on transparency
- Focus on outcomes instead of numbers
- Focus on tech solutions that benefit both patient and physician
1. Focus on slowing down
With physicians feeling busier than ever, especially on administrative tasks, many wish they had more time to spend with their patients. At The Villages Health, physicians like the slower pace and emphasis on personal touch that the organization's value-based care model allows.
“We have 30- to 60-minute visits, depending upon the type of care needed by a patient,” Trinh says. “This is important because if you look at other primary care medical groups, they often do not allow as much time for the physician and patient interaction.”
“Both parties really like it. It’s attractive to new patients because no matter where they come from, they say they have never heard of having that much time with their physician. The physicians like it because it allows them to take more time to provide better care and develop highly engaged relationships with their patients.”
2. Focus on support
According to Trinh, the number one strategy companies can use to support physicians who are feeling overworked, dissatisfied, and underappreciated is to provide opportunities for them to share their feedback, take them seriously, and take steps to alleviate their pain points.
For example, The Villages Health rolled out a ‘Call Us First’ program for patients that resulted in some unintended consequences for physicians.
“The campaign generated a lot of calls, but in the middle of the night,” Trinh says. “Clinicians would answer the phone in the wee hours of the night and then need to see patients early the next day. What’s more, a lot of the calls — such as calls to schedule appointments — didn’t need to go to physicians."
"We changed our approach by contracting with an outside service staffed by nurses to take these after-hour calls," Trinh continues. "They take the first call, and then, if appropriate, transfer the patient to the clinician that’s on call. That really increased clinician satisfaction because they knew the calls they were going to take were appropriate for them.”
Trinh prioritizes providing physicians at The Villages Health with the support they need. The Villages Health staffs two dedicated medical assistants for every primary care physician. This allows physicians to hand over a wide variety of tasks to their support team members: calling back patients, helping with refills, scribing, and more.
“We encourage our physicians to delegate as much as possible to their care teams so they can focus on patient care.”
“In the past we used to hire a PA or NP when the primary care physician got to 80% capacity on their patient panel. We found that was just too late, so we’ve changed that,” Trinh says. “Today, when the patient panel is 20% for a new primary care physician, we immediately start hiring for that nurse practitioner or physician assistant position to provide ongoing access. It’s a one-to-one ratio; every primary care physician gets their own advanced practice practitioner.”
3. Focus on transparency
Making sure your existing clinicians are happy and want to stay is just as important as recruiting for open positions. Trinh believes communication is a two-way street. This starts with making deliberate opportunities for physicians to voice concerns in an open forum.
Trinh and his Vice President of Human Resources, Cheri Benedetti, host annual all-clinician lunches to make sure they have a pulse on what’s happening in their clinics. “We’ll go to each location of our care centers and meet the physicians for lunch. I come with my notepad and write down all the things that we could do to better support them. I also ensure that action is taken, where possible, on the feedback received, and there is follow-up provided.” Physicians have shared their appreciation of having the opportunities for their voices to be heard and expressed their gratitude for the level of support they receive from TVH executive leadership.
Feedback ranges the gamut — from requests for more laptop chargers to heavier frustrations like broken modules that don’t input medications into clinical summaries. When physicians express the ways they’re annoyed or discouraged at work, Trinh says it’s important to listen and make changes where you can. Just as important, he says, is for physicians to feel validated in their frustrations.
Trinh, along with his executive leadership team, also hosts quarterly all-clinician meetings to share updates on The Villages Health. He views this type of proactive communication as important in understanding how the entire ecosystem is doing.
4. Focus on outcomes instead of numbers
The Villages follows a value-based care model rather than fee-for-service model. This allows physicians to worry less about how many patients they see and focus instead on making sure their patients get the care they need. This supports the positive outcomes that a full-risk Medicare Advantage Value-Based model is looking for.
Physicians and patients both like the care model. This alignment creates a myriad of benefits: higher engagement, less wasted resources, less patient confusion, and more empowered staff, to name just a few.
“We should be rewarded for our outcomes, versus rewarded for how many procedures or visits we do, and that aligns us with our patient’s health,” Trinh says. “We believe strongly in our care model that keeps patients healthy and heals them quickly.”
5. Focus on tech solutions that benefit both patient and physician
The Villages Health uses a twofold approach when it comes to implementing new technology: Make the experience better for patients while improving the experience for clinicians as well.
The company has been busy adopting new tech to improve the care experience of patients. Recently, The Villages Health added a capability for patients to complete their new patient paperwork online. Next year, they’re looking to incorporate self check-in so that patients can avoid the line and use their phone to expedite service.
While these improvements for patients are valuable, the company also consistently looks towards ways to improve the lives of its staff via technology too. One example is a new keystroke tracker that monitors physician interactions with electronic medical records. This tech helps identify clinicians who are struggling to manage paperwork efficiently relative to their peers, those who may need additional training. The goal is to help make administrative work less of a burden — and ideally less frustrating.
One other perk of the company being a multi-specialty healthcare facility is its integration of electronic medical records across all areas of specialization.
“If a patient goes to see our cardiologist, the cardiologist can see the entire history of that patient from their primary care physician. Then, if our cardiologist takes care of that patient and sends them back to their primary care, that primary care doctor knows exactly what was done.”
This is a win-win for both patient and practitioners, allowing better continuity of care and convenient access to patient medical histories across specialties.
Effective strategies for hiring physicians
The success of The Villages Health in keeping up with growth within The Villages and surrounding areas is the result of their strategies for hiring physicians and focus on retention.
By prioritizing solutions that improve experiences for both patients and physicians, The Villages Health has increased overall satisfaction. It has been proven that actively giving clinicians opportunities to voice their concerns — and leaders making good on their requests — goes a long way in developing loyalty and job satisfaction. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.
Of course, the fact that The Villages is “in a warm-weather state with no state income taxes," and there are lots of community amenities, certainly helps sweeten the deal for potential new hires too, which is the icing on the cake!