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 Do They Really Need You? - Continued

So, how can you tell if there is a real community need for your services, whether the hospital is following federal physician recruitment guidelines and whether established physicians are likely to support you? Consider asking whoever is recruiting you these questions at your next job interview.

Why are you recruiting? Is it because the hospital down the street just recruited a female ob/gyn, or is it because there is a real need in the community for additional obstetric and gynecological services? In most cases, hospitals or medical groups recruit for reasons that are not fundamentally altruistic. Obviously, they want patients. That does not illegitimate their recruitment efforts, as long as such efforts coincide with community need.

Why do you think there is a need for my specialty? This is where answers can get vague and where you may need to press for further information. The fact is, many hospital and group administrators do not know how many physicians their community needs. Determining community need for physicians is not an exact science even when you do the research. When you do not, it's pretty much a shot in the dark. The hospital or group should be able to point to some data indicating that a need exists for your specialty. To dig for this data, you may need to ask...

How large is your service area, and how many physicians in my specialty does it include? There are a variety of ratios that suggest how many physicians in different specialties a given population needs. The hospital or medical group should be able to cite one or more of these ratios in demonstrating that a need for your services exists. It is important that all the physicians in the community are referenced, not just those on the hospital's staff. A need on the staff does not necessarily mean a need exists in the community, which is the real litmus test. A useful reference book, the Dartmouth Health Care Atlas, lists more than 300 hospital referral regions and cites the relative number of primary care physicians and specialists per 100,000 residents in each. It is instructive to review this data in determining which communities have a higher-than-average number of physicians per population and which communities are lower than the average.

Have you conducted a physician needs assessment study? An increasing number of hospitals are conducting formal physician needs assessment plans that marshal a variety of data to determine physician need. These plans can help keep hospitals compliant with recruitment laws and can also serve as effective recruitment tools. If a hospital does have such a plan, ask to review it—or at least the data that applies to your specialty—to see what conclusions were reached.

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