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Physicians: The 5 “A”s Stand for Competitive Advantage

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What will give you a competitive advantage in the physician job marketplace?

According to Dan Beckham at Hospital & Health Networks Daily , showing your mastery of the five “A”s will.

Beckham is actually speaking to hospitals in this article and addressing the need for strategic coherence and establishing physician differentiation rooted in value as they enlist more and more physicians to their employment rosters. As part of this, he recommends that hospitals recruit and hire physicians who demonstrate the following qualities:

1. Availability

“Availability describes,” Beckham writes, “the extent to which physicians make themselves available. How quickly can a patient get an appointment? How long does the patient wait in the office? How much time does the physician spend with the patient? How quickly does a specialist get back to a referring primary care physician? Ready follow-up by phone and email or a secure patient portal can be a significant differentiator. Front office staff, including receptionists and medical assistants, can have a huge impact on physician availability because they can act as facilitators or barriers…

”…Physicians whose offices are buried in large medical complexes with traffic, parking and navigation challenges likely will have their availability suffer. Physicians in close proximity to a variety of specialists benefit from enhanced availability because proximity facilitates quicker, more comprehensive, and more responsive consultation. Health plans have responded to the power of availability by favoring networks of physicians that are well-distributed geographically, able to provide ready access to their enrollees.”

2. Affability

What are your interpersonal skills like? What is your level of empathy and engagement in one-on-one conversations with patients like?

According to Beckham, “Physicians who demonstrate an interest in the patient beyond the history, physical, and diagnosis are likely to be regarded as more affable. Physicians who keep their hand on the doorknob are likely to be regarded as less so. Office staff and nurses who are aloof color patient perspectives of a physician's affability, and this is true in the practice setting as well as in the inpatient environment.”

And of course, how well do you relate to your colleagues?

3. Ability

This A involves your training, experience, outcomes, and overall reputation. Beckham notes, “Ability may be more important for specialists than for primary-care physicians because it reflects procedural capabilities as well as the capacity to bring advanced technology to bear. Some physicians have differentiated themselves by promoting their ability to deliver on leading-edge capabilities. Demonstrating ability is arguably more complex for a primary care physician because it includes serving as a diagnostician and coordinator of care as well as a point of access to subspecialty care.”

4. Affordability

Even though “[t]he real price of care delivered by physicians remains obscured and fragmented,” Beckham predicts “as employers, insurers, and the government increase consumer sensitivity to the price of their care through rising copays and deductibles…This eventually will cause patients to consider more affordable methods and settings. They also will demand pricing information on which to base their purchasing decisions. Already, we are seeing more transparency on physician pricing.”

The Cleveland Clinic has started to establish contracts that “feature all-inclusive bundling that encompasses a fixed procedure price as well as the cost of travel and accommodations” in order to make its physicians more affordable, he adds.

5. Accountability

This is an accountability that goes beyond the Hippocratic Oath, Beckham writes, It’s a new kind of accountability. The kind that demands “accountability for the value of care delivered--the combination of outcomes and costs.” Furthermore, “[a]s a member of a hospital-sponsored group practice or a network, a physician also must demonstrate accountability to its mission, values, and vision. Indeed, it is this accountability that underpins strategic coherence and makes differentiation of a physician group possible…”

We would urge you to read the entire article, as it goes much more in depth in each of these areas than we were able to. As physicians looking for jobs, though, what insights do you have related to the importance of these five “A”s. On job interviews, how do you use the above qualities to demonstrate your ability to compete in the modern healthcare industry?

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