Thought leadership

Winning the War for Physician Talent

Winning the War for Physician Talent

The term “war for talent,” coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company, captures the increasingly fierce competitive landscape to recruit and retain talented employees. Healthcare leaders find the war for physician talent especially daunting for two reasons. First, about one-third of today’s U.S. physicians will reach retirement age in the next ten years, triggering a significant physician shortage by 2030.  Second, compounding the growing shortage, nearly half of physicians nationally admit to suffering from burn out and disengagement. Many are opting out of the profession or are finding less stressful practice environments. Perhaps most concerning—others are toughing it out and practicing poorly.

Healthcare leaders are looking for a silver bullet to resolve the talent crises. Frankly however, a simple solution does not exist.  


Make Robust Intervention for Physicians a Top Priority

Great physician talent is scarce. Your healthcare organization’s ability to attract and retain a high level of talent demands attention as a top priority for overall system wellbeing.  Inherent in this quest, leaders must attract and retain physicians who culturally fit the organization. No question such a process takes time, yet is essential for success.   

Our experience indicates that challenges and strategies vary by organization.  However, those organizations that become champions in the physician talent war share several commonalities. Examples include: Board of Trustees/ C Suite sponsorship; savvy, physician-oriented HR personnel; and focused, on-going efforts to develop provider resilience and build a more engaged medical staff

Defined as the ability to adapt to and recover from stressful circumstances, resilience mitigates burnout and facilitates engagement. This ability represents one of the most important qualities today’s physicians can possess.  The good news is that, while many providers inherently possess some measure of resilience, they can hone this skill. Sadly, even in today’s environment, few medical schools teach provider resilience techniques. The opportunity and imperative to build resilience often falls to healthcare organizations.


Begin the Journey to Becoming a “Physicians’ Organization of Choice”

The designation of “Physicians’ Organization of Choice” is more than a marketing slogan or a project. Attaining this status in your market requires hard work and day-to-day operational focus. We have seen clients launch robust engagement efforts that generate improvement, only to relax their focus, fall behind and have to restart the work.

Regardless of where your organization falls on the continuum, success begins with a step to make a positive impact. Fostering a healthy clinical team requires a mission-critical, complex pathway designed to support clinically exceptional, resilient physician talent to care for your patients.

Wherever your organization lands on the continuum of becoming a physicians’ organization of choice, introducing a well-coordinated, hands-on effort will improve your position. Our dedicated team at Gallagher offers a proven approach to increase resilience among your physicians. Grounded in best practices, our approach follows three key principles.

First, know that success is possible when an organization commits to stay the course. Bill Leaver, former CEO of Unity Point and an early champion of building physician organizations of choice often said, “Physicians go where they are welcomed, remain where they are respected and grow where they are nurtured.”

Second, the need to care for our physicians—who may be burned out, opting out, harming themselves or patients—has reached crisis level. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) states that the Triple Aim has become the Quadruple Aim: Better Outcomes, Lower Costs, Improved Patient Experience and Clinical Wellness. The literature has widely recognized and quantified that risks posed by burned out or disengaged physicians are substantial. Patient safety, quality outcomes, consumer satisfaction and the bottom line—not to mention the wellbeing of physicians themselves—hang in the balance.

Third, understanding and evaluating the interrelationship between resiliency, burnout and engagement is critical in order to build a path toward more resilient, engaged physicians and a healthy, safe and productive work environment.


The Gallagher Approach

Our approach includes:

•    Phase I:  Assessing Stakeholders and Analytics; Conducting Gap Analysis (Board of Trustees, C Suite, and Physicians)

•    Phase II: Activating Engagement and Moving Forward

•    Phase III: Deploying Focused Engagement Projects

•    Phase IV: Reviewing Results and Quantifying Needs

•    Phase V: Making the Plan Scalable and Systemic


Anticipated Impact and Inspiration

Most report a three-fold impact following these efforts. First, all key stakeholders understand through joint review a data-driven snapshot of their organization’s burnout drivers. Second, the organization identifies actionable efforts to impact burnout, develops resilience and engagement, and initiates improvement efforts. Third, key leaders commit to buy in, stay the course and provide necessary resources to tackle the systematic drivers of burnout and improve metrics. Typical burnout drivers reported include:

  • Ignoring physicians’ concerns on a myriad of issues
  • Allowing disruptive physicians to practice
  • Care team dysfunction, and
  • The loss of collegiality and isolation from fellow physicians


Your Brand and Bottom Line

Most would agree that losing talented physicians and ignoring poor engagement and burnout can significantly impact patients, community, brand and bottom line. Many healthcare leaders may be unaware that replacing one physician costs 2.5 times his or her current compensation. Further, the recruitment, placement and credentialing of a new physician requires an average of 16 months. This calculation does not include the risk to physician morale, changes in referral patterns or poor patient experience.

The Gallagher team can help your organization understand and address your physician wellness issues. We bring decades of experience working with healthcare systems nationally, helping organizations to face the future with confidence.


Consulting and insurance brokerage services to be provided by Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. and/or its affiliate Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc. Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. is a licensed insurance agency that does business in California as “Gallagher Benefit Services of California Insurance Services” and in Massachusetts as “Gallagher Benefit Insurance Services.” Neither Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., nor its affiliates provide accounting, legal or tax advice.


Mitchell Gold

Mitchell Gold, Ph.D. is a Managing Director & Senior Advisor with the Engagement Surveys service line for Gallagher’s Human Resources & Compensation Consulting practice. He works with clients to understand pivotal business and leadership levers that will most effectively advance business outcomes. For over 20 years, Mitch has worked with numerous Fortune 100/500 organizations in helping them evolve their human capital and talent management practices. His industry experience spans segments including Telecommunications, Manufacturing, Technology, Healthcare, ...

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William F. Jessee

William F. Jessee, MD, FACMPE joined Integrated Healthcare Strategies, now a part of the Gallagher Human Resources & Compensation Consulting practice in October, 2011, after serving for more than 12 years as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). He also holds an academic appointment as Clinical Professor of Health Systems Management and Policy at the University of Colorado School of Public Health.

Dr. Jessee is one of the nation’s leading ...

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