Industry Voices—Clinical data registries can be a unique resource for physician recruitment

Doctors talking
With a changing physician workforce and medical practice landscape, there are unique opportunities for hospital leaders to leverage clinical data registries in physician recruitment. (Getty/wmiami)

As healthcare employment trends change, hospitals are being forced to change their physician recruitment strategies, too.

New myriad influences demand that facilities do more to attract the best candidates. What many hospital leaders and recruiters don’t realize is they have a rich but underutilized recruitment resource available to confront this challenge: clinical data registries.

Like a Benjamin Button of professions, U.S. physicians as a group are about to grow significantly younger. Physicians age 55 or older make up 43% of all U.S. doctors (PDF). Among the groups filling their retiring ranks are women and millennials. Women now make up the majority of young doctors and medical students while millennials are expected to outpace the number of baby boomers in the general population this year.

At the same time, many doctors are rethinking their employment situations amid the shift to value-based care and due to lifestyle preferences following younger physicians into practice.

A recent survey of resident physicians in their final training year found 91% said they would prefer to be an employee of a hospital or other facility than be in independent private practice. Likewise, the American Medical Association’s most recent Physician Practice Benchmark Survey found physicians are now more likely to be employed.

From this changing physician workforce and practice landscape arises unique opportunities to leverage clinical data registries in physician recruitment.

RELATED: Industry Voices—The value of registries goes beyond quality. Cost savings is one potential benefit

Registries, as in the types of programs explored in my previous Industry Voices posts, are essentially databases that can be used to improve health outcomes of patients with specific diseases or conditions. While their primary function is measuring quality, they are also instruments for improvement and change that play nicely into recruitment efforts.

In general, registry participation offers a framework for achieving and recognizing quality improvement. For example, when a facility states it’s a Platinum Performance Achievement Award recipient or holds the HeartCARE Center National Distinction of Excellence, the claim is made possible through registry participation. This comes in handy not only when trying to stand out to anyone deciding where to go for care but also in attracting well-qualified clinical team applicants.

Likely to become only more commonplace is using registry participation to adjust to value-based care and the broader quality improvement culture taking hold in healthcare.

Most experts agree that many physicians who choose to be employed instead of in independent practice say they do so, at least in part, to gain access to the intricate infrastructure, technology and other mechanisms inherent to quality-based payment programs and population health management.

RELATED: Industry Voices—Clinical data registries can be a powerful tool for managing a hospital's reputation

A well-documented case in which registry participation yielded many of the additional assets advantageous to recruitment is the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and its affiliated pediatric physician-hospital organization. To improve care outcomes and processes for the more than 12,000 children it serves, the network launched a quality improvement registry in 2003. The program captured performance measures, based on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's guidelines, and provided comparative practice data for shared learning and identification of best practices—all of which was made available to participating physicians.

Over a three-year period beginning with the program’s launch, the percentage of patients receiving "perfect care" increased from 4% to 88% and a pay-for-performance component resulted in a fee schedule increase of 2% to 7%.

The ability to show employment-seeking physicians that your organization can empower them to thrive in today’s value-based care and quality improvement-focused environments will only grow more critical as more commercial payers intend to use registries to reward and penalize hospitals based on outcomes.

As hospitals look to enhance their recruitment packages, registries can be a foundation for forming additional incentives. Exactly how recruiters choose to incorporate registry participation in their recruitment strategies will depend on each organization’s distinct circumstances.

But as registries grow faster than previously anticipated, their value to physicians and hospitals at large offers a new and unique tactic to bolster recruitment efforts.

Milton Silva-Craig is the CEO of Q-Centrix. He has more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare information technology industry and has held executive positions at leading industry companies, including General Electric Medical Systems.