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What Kind of Physicians Will Be Recruited Under the ACO Model? (Part 1 of 2)

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Hiring nurse practitioners and physician assistants to fill roles normally occupied by physicians is one reality of the ACO model that is singlehandedly restructuring traditional healthcare. As we’ve mentioned before, physicians object to this trend because there is an immense difference in the training and experience that they have when compared to the training and experience that an NP or PA has.

So, what is the justification behind hospitals and health systems doing this?

In an excellent article over at HealthLeaders Media, Jim Stone, president-elect of the National Association of Physician Recruiters, said, "I don't think there's any question that mid-levels—premium mid-levels, nurse practitioners, physician assistants—are going to have to play a vital role in this process. You already have too few doctors. A lot of doctors do things that mid-level (nurses) are perfectly capable of doing. Just as I wouldn't hire a super-talented physician recruiter and pay them a lot of money to have them do data entry, it's the same concept. We are starting already to see the volume pick up of mid-levels being hired in anticipation of those changes."

This isn’t surprising and it makes sense from a business management perspective. However, what types of physicians are likely to get work under the ACO model?

According to a survey of healthcare employers and systems by Stone’s national physician research firm, The Medicus Firm, 78 percent want physicians with a team-oriented approach, followed by 68.3 percent who want physicians who are focused on quality and 65.9 percent who want those physicians with a technologically savvy approach to providing care, especially in areas of mobile and EMR technology.

Teamwork. Quality. Technologically savvy. This survey seems to jibe with what I’m hearing from healthcare executives these days. Truth be told, although this paradigm shift has shot into high gear in recent years, it has been brewing beneath the surface for a while now.

Stone elaborated on the survey’s findings, telling HealthLeaders that “the high-volume admitters, high volume procedure (physicians ) that have been very attractive to hospital over the years, that's got to change. And these healthcare officials are not necessarily going to look for people just to cut first, and ask questions later."

Stone then throws this curious curveball toward the end of the interview when he implies that a physician’s personality, their demeanor, will play a huge role in being hired, even going beyond the impact of their credentials and experience. He said that hospitals and physician groups will “have to become better at behavioral interviewing.” Sure, you may be able to bring into the organization millions of dollars in business, but if you’re a grump, how will that play on patient satisfaction scores? If it doesn’t play well, how will that affect reimbursements?

The article is chock-full of information like this, so much that we’ll be doing another blog posting on it tomorrow. As Stone observes, though, it’s important for physicians to remember that everything right now is a projection, an estimate as to how life under the ACO model will be.

Ultimately, no one is sure where or when (if ever) this paradigm shift is going to end.

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