Health Quest Medical Practice’s
Onboarding Program Proving Its Value
By Gina Truhe, AASPR, Onboarding Specialist, Health Quest, LaGrangeville, NY, and John Choi, MD, Division of Surgery, Health Quest Medical Practice
Dr. John Choi
Dr. John Choi joined Health Quest Medical Practice in the summer of 2011 after completing a colorectal research fellowship at the University of Southern California. Dr. Choi had not yet practiced on his own and was joining two other surgeons who were also just out of training. Our challenges with onboarding were difficult, but not unique. We needed to acclimate a new physician to our hospital, medical practice and community. He would need to be educated about all aspects of working in a private practice (markedly different from an academic setting), and his practice would need to grow quickly.
As Health Quest’s designated Onboarding Specialist, I began working with Dr. Choi about six months prior to his start date; while he was still completing his fellowship. Our first few months were spent working cross-country on completing his state license application, as well as his medical staff and managed care payer applications. As we grew closer to the completion of his fellowship, we began to talk more about what he wanted from his practice. From our conversations, I learned who he felt would be important to meet with early in his employment. Spending this time speaking with Dr. Choi allowed me to learn exactly who he felt he would need to know in order to start getting referrals. We were able to marry his thoughts with our goals to ensure that he met with a wide range of providers.
Once Dr. Choi moved to the area, we began an intensive orientation process. His orientation included a day-long operation orientation, meeting with every department, from payroll and human resources to marketing and security. That was followed with nearly two weeks of clinical meetings. We made sure that he met with the nurse managers and clinical leaders from every inpatient and outpatient unit at our hospitals with whom he would interact, including the ancillary services that his patients would require. We worked closely with the hospital’s department chairs to engage them in introducing Dr. Choi to their colleagues both informally and at their meetings. We followed all of that with a series of meet-and-greets with the hospital administration and community physicians. In an effort to grow his colorectal surgery practice, we honed in on several key specialties in the community: gastroenterology, primary care, radiology, and oncology. One by one, we met with all constituents and followed up with referral materials for their offices. I firmly believe that this individualized plan allowed us to help Dr. Choi grow his practice in the fastest way that we could, while ensuring that he was becoming familiar with the physicians he would interact with most closely.
Dr. Choi and I sat down recently to talk about his experience:
Truhe: Prior to joining HQMP were you aware of the concept of Physician Onboarding?
Choi: No, I had never heard of it and didn’t know such a thing existed.
Truhe: In my role as the Onboarding Specialist, was I able to help you navigate through the credentialing paperwork?
Choi: Documentation is ever increasing these days and the medical profession is certainly ahead in this field. Volumes of papers need to be signed, countersigned, and approved. The medical legal requirements for each state and hospital differ so much that it is hard to predict exactly what is needed. Certainly it is nice to have someone familiar with the process and paperwork, to have someone tell you what needs to be reviewed, signed, and approved by you. It’s difficult to verbalize how important it is to have someone tell you which paper is for what purpose, what agency, and to what end it is needed.
Truhe: During your pre-employment period how often would you say that we spoke?
Choi: We spoke regularly and frequently, as simple questions sometimes were hard to find answers for. To have a liaison — a point person to contact — is quite essential to expedite the credentialing and onboarding process. More often than not, it is more a question of who needs to be involved or contacted rather than what needs to be done. I think most physicians may have an idea of the things that are required for new employment, but do not know or understand all the processes that are involved. As physicians, the hiring process has increased in complexity in comparison to your routine corporate hiring because of the medical/legal involvement in city, state, and federal laws.
Truhe: When it came time to move and get settled in your new community, what assistance did our onboarding program provide?
Choi: The age of the Internet makes it easier to research demographics, socio-economic trends, school district performance, and housing but there is never a substitute for good, quality people who do their job well. It’s always nicer to have introductions to real estate agents, financiers, and other physicians who have proven themselves in the community. This is where the specialist is needed, but it’s not always tangible.
Truhe: Surgeons rely on referrals from other physicians in order to grow their practices. In what ways did our onboarding program help you make those connections?
Choi: It is crucial to incorporate oneself into the community by meeting primary care physicians, gastroenterologists, oncologists, radiologists, all physicians, nurses, and staff. It is always better to arrange meet-and-greet events so that you have the attention of the people to whom you are introducing yourself. This is in contrast to meeting others while multi-tasking and then having them forget you. In particular, surgery is unique in that surgeons are dependent on other physicians for referrals and consultations for patients. The reason why it takes two to three years to establish oneself and build a practice is that it takes time to meet people, build a rapport, create confidence in your field, and then establish a relationship of referrals and/or consultations. Having an Onboarding Specialist expedites this whole process. This benefits the new hire, the hospital or group investing in the new person, and potentially patients who may receive care that was previously unavailable to them.
After just three months with Health Quest, Dr. Choi now spends two full days per week in the OR and his office hours are booked out two weeks in advance. He is approximately 30% more productive after three months than a previously hired surgeon (with similar credentials) who did not go through our formal onboarding program.
Journal of ASPR - Winter 2012