Healthcare transitions mandate recruiters screen for savvy physicians

Mandated change will never stop coming to medicine, and that change extends beyond medical discoveries to physicians and the recruitment of them.

Sourcing physicians who are technologically savvy and show a history of adaptation is becoming increasingly crucial to satisfy clients. This was the case with the shift to electronic medical records and will likely be the case with an upcoming transition whose details are still in flux: the shift to IDC 10.

A grace period was announced in the last few days to ease the anticipated pains of a radical mandate shaking healthcare: on October 1, ICD-10 codes, or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, will be mandated to replace the previous classification system, ICD-9. Coming this autumn, all doctors will have to change the numerical codes they use to classify every known illness. But thanks to the Texas Medical Association, a transition time of one year has been granted physicians before penalties are enforced for not implementing the change.

ICD-10 as a coding process is regarded as far more complex than its predecessor. A recent study indicates that this complexity will come at a steep cost across the entire health care system for both patients and providers. The total cost just to train medical coders and administrative personnel is estimated to range from $700 million to $1.4 billion to state governments alone.

Most technology advancements have facilitated advances in industries, including physician recruiting. Journalist Malcom Gladwell discusses how differently the consequences electronic medical records (EMR) have been from other advances in a recently published interview: "Because most electronic things have made my own life easier, I just assume that it is the same for doctors—but, in fact, it is not. Technology is always being used in a particular context, and the context of medicine is so similar to the context of banking that you can't draw an analogy from one to the other."

Public perception does not align with the difficulty presented by seismic shifts to like the one to EMR, said Gladwell: "90% of the public thinks that doctors would welcome that innovation and assumes that EMRs made doctors' lives easier, when, in fact, the opposite is true." A conversation with almost any physician will contradict this perception, while a conversation with almost any physician recruiter will find a champion of electronic footprints doctors are now leaving.

Resistance to the ICD-10 shift indicates that this further transition will also be unwelcome. The transitions that lie beyond ICD-10 could include adaptation to wearables and the spread of connected devices called the Internet of Things. For recruiters, the challenge becomes screening for doctors who show an ability to adapt to changes.

A strong history of adaptation to EMR would indicate that a candidate could be more likely to adapt to ICD-10. The story of how physicians with careers long enough to have dealt with the EMR transition becomes crucial, especially in senior-level candidates whose career history currently requires that they were a part of that transition.

New screening techniques may be needed for the recruitment of physicians to be most effective, because transitions like ICD-10 are becoming a rule rather than an exception. As change continues to come, physician recruiters may have to do more than use new technologies to find candidates; they may have to find candidates who actually use new technologies. The hunt is on.

Larry Stewart is President Tal Physicians at Tal Healthcare, a recruitment firm in Greater New York City. A leader in his field since 1982, Mr. Stewart was previously co-founder and president of Weatherby Healthcare, which became part of CompHealth, where he was president of its Permanent Placement Division.


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