I’ve seen signs lately that hospitals and health systems are focusing a lot of time and resources on a lynchpin in the health care system - the physician.
The first is a recent article published by amednews titled, “Hospital hiring of physicians picks up steam”. The article starts with a bold quote, “The only reason a physician wouldn't be able to find a hospital job, it appears, is because he or she isn't looking for one. “ claims author Victoria Stagg Elliot. Hospitals and health systems nationally are continuing the trend of hiring physicians, which some think is a key strategy in preparing for health reform. In addition to hiring more physicians, hospitals are increasing compensation to retain key talent. A survey by Sullivan Cotter found hospitals are offering perks such as bonuses, on-call pay, retirement funds and are attempting to address quality of life issues such as burnout.
The second example is a recent article in USA Today titled,"Hospitals hire reps to sell doctors on patient referrals". This article is another reminder of the important role doctors play in health care economics. Even with more hospitals hiring physicians directly, a 2009 report by the AMA found that 5 in 6 doctors are affiliated with more than one facility. These doctors perform services at a number of institutions, meaning the revenue is spread amongst those facilities. Enter the physician liaison. The liaisons are tasked with building relationships and essentially “selling” doctors that a particular facility has the right equipment, staff and quality of post procedure care to benefit their patient. In most cases, the role has a typical sales incentive structure with liaisons able to “make tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses” if they can get physicians to increase their referrals. One institution is pleased with the results, saying that, “since 2007, the company credits its physician liaisons with helping to boost the numbers of doctors who actively refer patients to its hospitals by 39%, or more than 4,500 doctors”. Referrals are a critical source of revenue for hospital systems and a physician liaison can help drive volume and act as an important communication channel with physicians.
Market dynamics are pushing hospitals to focus on the role physicians play in contributing to a consistent, predictable stream of patients and revenue. As new business models such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and competitive pressure increases, its clear physicians are a central lynchpin for success.