It’s no secret that physician recruitment is more competitive than ever and that rural hospitals are struggling the most. The inability to attract healthcare providers to remote areas impacts access to care in these communities and poses a threat to the survival of their hospitals.
On a recent episode of NPR’s All Things Considered, Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association said, “Recruitment is a life or death issue, not just for patients in those areas, but for the hospitals themselves.”
On the same episode, CEO Brad Huerta explained how his team at Lost Rivers Medical Center in Arco, Idaho secures physicians by targeting lovers of the great outdoors and semi-retired doctors. And Benjamin Anderson of Kearny County Hospital in Lakin, Kansas shared that his organization recruits physicians interested in making a difference in their communities. His hospital offers ten weeks of paid sabbatical a year and encourages its doctors to use this time to serve on medical missions.
Whatever your recruitment strategy may be, it’s important to be able to offer competitive compensation packages, not only to attract physicians, but to keep them as well. A recent Jackson Physician Search survey polled rural physicians and administrators on the factors that influence recruitment, and while the two groups had differing opinions on several top-ranking factors, they agreed that compensation is the single most influential tool in recruitment.
While everyone agrees that a hospital’s pay must be competitive, it is equally as important for it to be sustainable. This is especially true at rural facilities, where the financial burden of recruitment takes a toll on their limited resources.
So how can rural hospitals design compensation packages that help them stand out in the marketplace without compromising their financial viability?
Our recommended approach is to offer rewards that give physicians financial advantages they could not easily procure for themselves. Our Physicians’ Advantage Plan, for example, maximizes the value of hospital-based compensation by providing an executive-benefit-type reward that’s commonly used in the corporate world, but is underutilized in the healthcare industry.
We also recommend making sure that a hospital’s compensation programs help stabilize its bottom line. This can be achieved in several ways. Our Physician Employment Strategies allows hospitals to link compensation to organizational goals such as quality, performance, and loyalty, which can all impact finances.
A program can also be designed to incorporate a platform for expense recovery. This allows a hospital to recoup some of its compensation expenditures. For rural facilities, the ability to recover expenses makes it easier to keep up with larger organizations in the race for physician talent. Expense recovery is an important facet of our Call Pay Solution. Since physicians are used to compensation programs changing or being dissolved altogether, we believe it’s important to provide them assurance that their call pay program will be around for years to come.
While hospitals continue to look for unconventional ways to attract physicians to their facilities, it’s important to match unique programs with compensation packages that are both competitive and sustainable. As it becomes harder for rural facilities to survive, it’s important that they find ways to transform financial liabilities like physician compensation into tools that uphold their financial viability. When used properly, compensation can help promote access to care in America’s rural communities.
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