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Insights on Reducing Physician Turnover

Improve Physician Retention and Boost Your Bottom Line
In Their Words: The Real Story on Physician Turnover

Table of Contents:


Executive Brief

A growing U.S. physician shortage means organizations are demanding more of staff and contracted physicians at a time when physician frustration is on the rise.

Surveys conducted in 2006 by both LocumTenens.com and the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) indicate that issues like low reimbursement levels, high workload volume and loss of autonomy are challenging physicians to find great satisfaction in practicing medicine.

At a Glance

Strong correlations have been noted among physician, employee and patient satisfaction. Eighty-four percent of the 2,500+ physicians who responded to a recent survey said a physician retention plan was"very important" or "important" to physician satisfaction.

Of the 10% of responding physicians who reported their organizations had retention plans in place, more than half (56%) said current plans do not meet their needs adequately.

Physicians are most vulnerable in the early years. A 2005 survey by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA) and Cejka Search found that, among the physicians leaving a group, 47% left in the first three years.

Physician turnover in the U.S. reached 20% by the end of 2004. In addition to financial costs of roughly a quarter-million dollars, healthcare organizations pay for losing a physician in "soft costs" like lowered employee morale, disrupted work flow, inconsistent patient care and damage to reputation, referrals and recruiting efforts.

Smart healthcare organizations are figuring out that retaining physicians already on their payrolls might be just as important as recruiting new physicians to their facilities.

Recent surveys indicate that targeted physician retention initiatives are increasing among U.S. medical groups. The number reporting they have targeted retention initiatives in place increased from 48% in 2004 to 58% in 2005, according to American Medical Group Association membership surveys.

However, LocumTenens.com's recent survey results indicate many physicians are not feeling the effects of stepped-up physician retention efforts just yet.

While 84% of the 2,500+ physicians responding to the online survey said a physician retention plan was "very important" or "important" to physician satisfaction, only 10% said their organizations employed targeted physician retention initiatives. Among that 10% of respondents, more than half (56%) said that existing retention plans did not meet their needs adequately. Comments shared by almost a third of survey respondents (800+) focused primarily on lack of respect, autonomy and work-life balance.

As for which perks the "ideal" physician retention plan includes, the survey results showed clearly that no one size fits all. Some of the more innovative plans adapt privileges and benefits to different stages in the physician's life. Other healthcare organizations utilize locum tenens physicians routinely to avoid "burning out" their staff and contracted physicians.

Essentially, creating a "culture of retention" requires management to demonstrate that it values physicians as people. When leadership ensures its physicians can fulfill both financial and emotional needs in the workplace, it increases organizational commitment and improves physician retention, securing its most valuable asset.

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