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Medical Practice: Regulary Evaluate Your New Doctor Associate

By: Reed Tinsley
Tel: (281) 379-5988
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Any expectations you have for a new Associate only works if you follow through with frequent evaluations. However, I am often struck by how little attention senior doctors give to basic personnel management of newly employed physicians.

Groups commonly schedule regular evaluation sessions for newly hired lay employees, yet overlook them at the physician level. You've invested too much in your new hire - especially if you're promising future partnership - to adopt a sink or swim attitude.

New hires need attention

Today's young doctors in particular often feel overwhelmed when confronted with the reality of seeing patients day to day. I've recommended mentoring in the past, so the new doctor will have one physician s/he feels comfortable talking with about these feelings. Don't assume an established physician doesn't need a mentor as well. Maybe s/he came to your private practice from an academic setting. At the least, support his or her developing referral contacts and medical community relationships for a while.

Set up informal evaluations, or "checking in" sessions, on a regular basis at least every three months for the first year. If you see problems or patterns occurring, increase the frequency. Assign the mentor or one or two senior physicians to the task of conducting these informal sessions. Assuming everyone in your group is taking care of it usually means no one ends up doing it.

Formalize a routine

Make it clear in your employment agreements that new hires will have sit-down performance review sessions every six months. Make the job description and resulting evaluations deal with all aspects of the new associate's work - both clinical and interpersonal. Discuss strengths and weaknesses, and be sure to explore personality factors.

It's difficult to confront and correct difficult behavioral traits at any stage, but it's best to handle them early on. And although these sessions may feel awkward, many associates actually welcome the feedback. Besides, the more regular the evaluations become, the less awkward they'll feel for the employee physician and for the senior doctor doing the evaluating.

Follow through

Too many groups fail to follow through - You may have the best intentions and start off on the right foot. The associate appears to be performing fine and everyone seems too busy to hold evaluation sessions. Soon, small problems begin to appear. Senior doctors pull out the file and realize they missed the last evaluation.

Such a scenario lets a potential problem magnify, and backing off evaluations gives your potential partner the wrong signal. What's more, it deprives you of the chance to mold the new doctor into the kind of partner you really want.

Actually, good group governance demands evaluating all physician-members' performance - even that of the most senior member. At least, though, you can establish the feedback process with your new doctor hires from Day One, even if it seems nearly impossible to install it at the senior level.

Reed Tinsley, CPA, is a Houston-based CPA, Certified Valuation Analyst, and healthcare consultant. He works closely with physicians, medical groups, and other healthcare entities with managed care contracting issues, operational and financial management, strategic planning, and growth strategies. His entire practice is concentrated in the health care industry.

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