With so many opportunities available to them, today’s physicians need a compelling reason to choose one organization over another. Better performing hospitals are finding that the only way to develop that compelling reason is through “medical staff segmentation.” Done correctly, it can transform staff development from a static plan to a dynamic strategy for connecting with the physician talent you need.
Most hospitals take a one-sided approach to medical staff development. They study the market, identify their opportunities, then determine which specialties they need to build. The end product is the “medical staff development plan”—essentially a list of physician staff openings.
That approach worked 25 years ago, when filling a medical staff position was synonymous with placing a recruiting ad. Today however, even vigorous (and expensive) recruiting efforts often come up dry.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t set the organization apart—it doesn’t give physicians a reason to join your medical staff instead of pursuing any of their other options. By identifying and responding to the needs of different medical staff segments, your organization can provide physicians with good, strong reasons for choosing, and staying with, your organization. Following are the steps to successful medical staff segmentation.
Step 1: Identify and Prioritize Staff Segments
Start by analyzing your medical staff and breaking it down into its natural units and groupings. A logical segment could be an entire department, a subspecialty, a group practice, or in some instances, an individual physician.
Next, evaluate each staff segment using standard planning techniques:
- Break down your gross revenue by segment to assess your dependency on each.
- Calculate the contribution margin of each segment to determine its profitability.
- Evaluate your market share for the service represented by each segment and look at demographic projections—this is your growth opportunity.
- For procedural specialties, consider opportunities presented by any unused capacity within your facility.
Once you understand how each staff segment supports your hospital’s sustainability and growth potential, prioritize the segments by their overall financial and strategic importance.
Step 2: Understand Segment Needs
Now, reach out to your most important medical staff segments to understand their needs, concerns, and aspirations. Issues will likely fall into the following categories:
- Financial needs. Declining reimbursement and rising costs make financial issues a priority for many physicians. Recent declines in stock values have returned financial concerns to the front and center for many older physicians.
- Professional concerns. The complexity and bureaucracy of healthcare interfere with the ability of many physicians to simply practice medicine. Surgeons in particular are frustrated with operating room access and clinical support.
- Lifestyle goals. Many physicians today put a premium on work-life balance. Specialists as well as primary care physicians increasingly want to limit practice demands and avoid the headaches of practice management.
- Status aspirations. Most physicians are personally invested in their profession to a high degree. They desire recognition for their expertise, their work, and the importance of their contributions.
For each physician segment, one or two of these need categories will likely stand out from the rest. Understanding the leading concerns and goals of each segment will help you engage in productive discussions.
Step 3: Find Ways to Solve Segment Problems
Once the needs of priority medical staff segments have been identified, work with physicians to develop ways to meet those needs. Because of their size and resources, hospitals are generally in a good position to help physicians realize a broad range of goals. And, in doing so, they are securing volume, growing market share, and building strategic strength.
For example, hospitals can frequently help physicians meet financial goals by providing practice management assistance through a Management Services Organization (MSO). Alternatively, creating an employed group can increase physician income through ancillary services revenue and better referral patterns.
Employment is also an effective way to facilitate physicians’ lifestyle and professional goals. Many physicians see hospital employment as the key to reducing management hassles, controlling work hours, limiting call, and gaining the freedom to focus on patient care.
Hospitals can also help physicians realize status goals by providing leadership opportunities, such as medical directorships, roles in governance, and participation in process improvement committees. These appointments give physicians the chance to gain recognition and challenge themselves professionally.
One note: Although efforts will focus on your most important segments, be open to working with every member of your medical staff. It may not be possible to offer the same package to everyone, but the hospital can do something with each segment to develop a constructive relationship.
Medical staff segmentation offers an orderly and predictable alternative to simply pouring money into recruiting and hoping for the best. Leaders responsible for medical staff development can systematically identify physicians’ needs and implement appropriate strategies for responding to those needs.
It’s an approach that will give physicians a “compelling reason” to work with your hospital—and that’s the key to creating a network of strong medical staff relationships. In short, segmentation builds a practical implementation strategy into medical staff development planning.