William Buck acts for many owners of general medical practices across Australia. Consistently, one of the top issues they face is how to recruit more doctors. If you are looking to grow your practice and recruit more doctors, you need a plan on how to attract them and provide the services and opportunities which will make them want to stay.
Observations of the current marketplace
- The profit margins of operating a GP medical practice have reduced, with profits being squeezed from all angles. Increases to staff wages, downward pressure on the level of service fees charged to doctors, increasing rents, pressure on the level of pathology rent income and general cost increases are taking a toll.
- The large number of graduating medical students is not turning into an increasing number of GP registrars.
- The growth of new GP practices has slowed as it becomes harder for practices to recruit doctors.
- Higher numbers of GP trainers and supervisors compared to GP registrars.
- High level of corporate and mini-corporate interest in acquisitions.
- Increased workloads arising from vaccination clinics.
In such a highly competitive and hectic environment, it is understandable that taking the time to ‘plan’ for the growth of your business is taking a back seat. Decisions are being made on the fly and in a reactionary way as opposed to aligning with a strategy.
When speaking with a group of over 100 practice owners recently, we took a poll in relation to their thoughts on doctor recruitment in the current market. Results include:
- 95% of those asked had an idea of what their ‘perfect’ doctor candidate looks like
- 20% of those asked believe that the perfect candidate does not exist
- 99% said they would prefer to wait for the right candidate than to onboard another, and
- 55% did not have a plan on how to recruit the candidate.
When asked about ‘the percentages being paid to doctors’, owners were hearing feedback about some doctors being offered payments of 75%* or higher, from practices that are desperate for them to join.
If you are considering paying a doctor a percentage higher than 70% consideration needs to be given to the financial impact this will have on your practice. When considering the benchmark expense levels for a practice, paying a doctor higher than 70% will in most cases result in a net loss from that doctor joining the practice. The practice will be busier, and more staff will be needed but the financial return to the owner will be unchanged or even reduced.
For those owners looking for a doctor now, particularly those who do not have a strategic plan for their practice which includes the growth in doctor numbers, you need to consider:
- What makes your practice unique from the other practice/s in your area?
- What special interests would work well with your existing patient base (skin, cosmetics, women’s health, etc)?
- Are your rooms, staff, other doctors and systems consistent with the type of doctor you are looking to attract?
- What else ‘sells’ your practice besides the percentage?
- Does your team work as efficiently and collaboratively as possible?
- Do you embrace technology and the efficiencies that it can bring to the practice?
Building a strategic plan for your practice provides clarity around where you are going with your business and the type of doctor you ideally need. You can then use this to help build a marketing plan to attract the doctor and improve your chances in these difficult times.
*For the purposes of this article I have adopted the “industry speak” of percentages paid to doctors. We note that this is a reference to the level of service fee being charged to the doctor reducing which results in a higher level of payment to the doctor.