Evaluating a Physician job opportunity from a Business standpoint
1) SALARY: That is a no brainer. You need higher salary to pay off your loans and to live comfortably as well as save for retirement.
Also make sure your time is adequately compensated. You are not supposed to do anything for free. Well not anymore! A friend of mine was offered a part-time position with hourly pay and then asked to cover night calls for free. The excuse was that the practice is new and until it builds up they cannot offer a full time position but someone has to take the call. If that ever happens to you remember you are not responsible for cutting cost for someone else’s business ramp up period.
The only reason you should do it is if it is your own business or you are already a physician partner. Unfortunately, there are many physician employers out there, who would love to have you sacrifice for their business without giving you a partnership deal. Remember if you are an employee, you charge like an employee. If you are a partner then you do whatever you can to help the medical practice. But don’t be a hard-liner either. Once in a while if a need arises do pitch in because that projects you as a reliable person.
2) FINANCIAL STRENGTH: The medical practice you are about to join will usually guarantee you salary and benefits. If the company is not financially sound, it may not be able to keep the word and you may end up looking for another job very soon. This is especially critical for residents who plan to file their immigration application through the new employer.
Trying to find out financials of a company is nearly impossible but you can get an idea from the county website to see if the property taxes are being paid on time or not. You can also check with other doctors in the practice and see if they receive their pay checks, bonuses, reimbursement for CME’s etc in time.
You can also ask the question directly at the job interview. See if you get a wishy washy answer or a straightforward declaration of profitability.
You can talk to other physicians in the area and they may be able to give you some idea. But take it with a grain of salt as it may be nothing but some juicy gossip. Look for consistency.
Now the physician employer in a financially bad position, may tell you that how your addition to the practice will help them boost revenues and bring them out of red. However never become a passenger in a sinking ship. If physician already there are losing money why would a new addition change it. Even the banks don’t loan to a losing business.
3) PHYSICIAN TURNOVER: Be very careful if you hear these stories about physicians leaving the practice and new physicians entering all the time. A revolving door for employees means the corporation is not able to keep anyone happy. And if they cannot keep the people there happy there is no way they will keep you happy.
It is expensive to recruit a physician and the ramp up period to establish a physician is also costly. Therefore most medical groups try to retain physicians by trying to keep them happy. Those who can’t, loose a lot of time , money and effort in the process and are usually declining financially.
4) PAYER MIX: You need to examine the payer mix in the area as it is directly linked to your revenues. The term is used to describe the percentage of Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and uninsured population in the area. Again I strongly believe that all patients should receive decent medical care irrespective of their insurance status. However payer mix will determine how many patients you will have to see a day to make your salary. Unfortunately payer mix has become very important in this era of Medicare cuts.
5) REPUTATION: Reputation of a practice, although ignored by many, is very important. Check with other physicians and consultants around the area to see if the group is reputable. If you join some infamous group, you will instantly become infamous. If you join a well respected group in town, you will get some of that respect even on the first day.
6) OFFICE DYNAMICS: Closely observe the way staff treats each other and their patients. Usually that reflects how the management treats the staff. And that is how you will be treated.
7) SUPPORTING SPECIALTY PHYSICIANS: Make sure you are comfortable with the kind of cases the practice deals with. If you are an FP and don’t want to deliver babies, don’t join a group that does it. Or make it clear before you sign. Put it in the contract. Make sure there are specialists around for you to refer a complex case to.