We spent much of 2021 thinking, breathing, and researching physician partnership. As executives set their strategic goals for the new year, better working with independent physicians remains a priority for most organizations. Here are six takeaways from our research to inform your partnership strategy.
1. Your partnership strategy cannot just be employment. Most remaining independent physicians are independent by choice. And there are now more entities who want to work with them than ever before. Physicians no longer face the binary choice of independent shareholder or hospital employee. Organizations who want to work with independent physicians should go out to the market with multiple paths to partnership—employment being just one.
2. Even competitors can be partners. Every organization has an opportunity to partner. In fact, progressive physicians accept that they will simultaneously compete with organizations in some areas while collaborating in others. As long as there is a shared scoped goal, even the biggest competitors can partner.
3. Think strategy first, contract last. While all partnerships need a contract to legalize and operationalize the arrangement, contracts are far less important than an organization's partnership strategy. A successful strategy is bigger than a single contract, grounded in goals, and outlines a consistent approach to partnership with multiple entities. Taken together, a collection of individual contracts is not a partnership strategy.
4. You can't have a single partnership strategy. While organizations should embrace a consistent approach to partnership, they can't treat all arrangements the same. Because local market forces influence partnership decisions and dynamics, organizations must roll out arrangements locally and on a one-to-one basis. At the same time, executives should agree on a shared purpose and guiding principles that will inform their larger partnership strategy.
5. Partnership is not about "winning." Physician partnerships are not just about mutual gain. Organizations must enter negotiations willing to make tradeoffs. Truly strategic organizations realize it is often worth giving up marginal competitive advantage for the benefits that come from successful partnership. Failing to acknowledge these realities degrades trust between partners.
6. Act now: Competition for physician loyalty has already begun. Do not take existing physician relationships for granted. Now is the time to build new partnerships or deepen existing ones. Otherwise, other partners will get there first or seek to replace you. Do not assume you know what physicians want—ask them directly. Demonstrate why your organization's unique value proposition makes you the more attractive partnership option.
New research on becoming the physician employer of choice
As competition for physician talent heats up, our team is kicking off new research focused on current trends in physician employment, what physicians value when choosing employers, and strategies to retain this important workforce. If you're the leader of an organization that hires physicians and interested in participating in a research interview, please email Archie Goyal at firstname.lastname@example.org.