You’ve noticed an uptick in patient complaints about how long it takes to get on the appointment schedule. Staff members are frustrated because they’re on the receiving end of those complaints. Doctors are exhausted due to longer hours and fewer days off, and some are teetering on the edge of burnout. If this sounds like your practice, it might be time to recruit an additional provider.
The decision to add a highly paid member to your team is not one to be taken lightly. Before you go down the recruiting road, assess how you are currently scheduling appointments to make sure that the problem doesn’t lie there. Next, consider hiring a practice management consultant who is skilled in streamlining patient flow and working with providers to help them be more efficient with their time. Finally, find out if any of your current providers who work less than full-time are interested in increasing the number of hours or days that they are in the office.
If none of these three factors solve the problem of too many patients and too few appointment slots and it’s determined that an additional provider is justified, the next decision is whether that person should be a doctor or a mid-level provider. For example, if your practice is staffed by three family physicians, do you need another FP, or should you consider a nurse practitioner or physician assistant instead? If you have four dentists in the office, do you need a fifth, or would it make more sense to hire two dental assistants who could make the four dentists more efficient?
Recruiting is not an inexpensive proposition, so consider whether the practice has adequate cash on hand to bring in a new provider. Factor in paying a placement agency or advertising on your own to attract the right person, hiring an attorney to draft an employment agreement or associate contract, paying interview trip and relocation expenses, paying the salary of the new recruit during the early months while his or her practice is building up, and hiring extra support staff.
Another question to ponder is whether you have the space to add someone to the provider team. This might mean a private office plus two to four additional treatment rooms. No room in the inn? Consider extending office hours so the practice can accommodate more patients in the same amount of space by having some providers work from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. while others work from 12:00 noon until 8 p.m. This will, of course, require additional support staff who are willing to work outside the usual 9 to 5 routine.
Once you’ve thoroughly evaluated each aspect of recruiting a new provider and the decision is made to move forward, put the wheels in motion as quickly as possible. Finding the right person-someone who is a fit both professionally and personally for your practice-will take, at minimum, several months. As soon as you have a signed agreement with the candidate of your choice, announce his or her arrival date to your patients so they’ll know that help is on the way and that getting on the appointment schedule will soon be quicker and easier.