How your EHR can help with physician recruiting

by John Rossheim

What’s the latest tool for recruiting the best clinicians to your hospital? Is it the professional pride of being associated with an organization that provides the best care in the region? Is it showing respect for the growing number of clinicians who seek to work hard but protect their personal lives from excessive intrusions in the form of frequent on-call duty or mandatory overtime?

In fact, there’s one institutional resource that can make a substantial contribution to your pitch for both of these lures: your technology for efficient, timely and accurate communication.

Just as electronic health records (EHR) contribute to patient satisfaction, the importance of EHR to doctors has risen rapidly of late too. “A decade ago I don’t think EHR was even discussed in candidate interviews,” says Paul Hensler, CEO at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, Calif. “Only in the past two or three years have physicians started asking about it early in their candidacy.”

For medical students or residents contemplating jobs at large hospital systems, EHR has graduated from the nice-to-have list. “Most hospital systems our size have EHR, so candidates expect it,” says Mike Waters, a physician recruiter at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, which employs 2,300 physicians.

EHR is on the minds of physician candidates

Regardless of the size of your institution, if you’ve got a comprehensive, up-to-date technology, it makes sense to flaunt it. “Candidates very commonly ask about EHR, and we always mention it as a selling point,” says Sigurd Ackerman, M.D., president and medical director of Silver Hill Hospital, a 130-bed psychiatric facility in New Canaan, Conn. “They want to know, do we have a system, which one, and how complete is it? We have VistA, and many younger psychiatrists have experience with it through their training at VA hospitals.”

Familiarity with a prospective employer’s specific EHR isn’t a major consideration for physicians early in their careers. “It would be nice for a hospital to have a system that’s similar to what I’ve been using, but I’m not opposed to learning a new system,” says Robert Levy, a fourth-year medical student in Philadelphia. It’s the presence of a comprehensive, up-to-date system that matters. Some 94 percent of medical students say it’s important that their workplace has an EHR, according to a survey by Epocrates, which makes medical information tools for mobile devices.

Spurring efficiency, retention and recruiting

For physicians who want to spend more time seeing patients and less grinding out paperwork, electronic-records technology is a big draw. “Most physicians view it as making their day considerably easier,” says Hensler. “We’re a teaching hospital, and our doctors don’t want to spend their days chasing down paper charts.”

Even for young physicians who have grown up with computers all around, the positive effects of electronic records are substantial. “EHR has more of an impact on my workday than I expected,” says Levy. And those effects transcend time savings and include providing more complete care. “Being able to look up previous admissions and discharge summaries is very useful. In a system without that, when you’ve got a long list of things to do, you may run out of time and some things don’t get done.”

New doctors are also open to learning more about how to use technology more effectively. Nearly half of medical students are less than satisfied with the amount of training they’ve received in EHR utilization, according to the Epocrates survey.

An effective EHR may also lend an advantage in another area of deep concern to health-care employers: clinician retention. Once a hospital’s clinicians are accustomed to the power and convenience of an EHR, they’re less likely to move to an employer that lacks one. “I don’t think anyone would leave us to go to a hospital with no electronic records system,” says Dr. Ackerman.

Since nurses typically spend hours of each shift making chart entries and doing other recordkeeping, they’re likely to see a well-implemented electronic system as a big draw too. “In some ways nurses are even more interested in electronic records than physicians are,” says Hensler of Kern Medical Center. “When word spread that we were installing EHR, we got a lot of applications from RNs.”

John Rossheim is a regular contributor to Curaspan Health Group’s Knowledge Exchange.

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