When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) takes full effect in 2019, estimates suggest that 30 million additional U.S. citizens will enjoy the benefits of health insurance. That’s a lot of added strain to an already taxed health care system, leading some to wonder how existing doctors will be able to handle such an influx of patients.
On a smaller level, many rural regions in the U.S. are already experiencing such problems – not for a current lack of quality physicians, mind you, but for the lack of interest by physicians who have little or no desire to live (and practice medicine) within struggling rural communities. So when it comes to meeting the health care demands of a community, rural hospitals and other medical practices have years of experience in doing more with less.
Of course, “more with less” isn’t a slogan you might expect would instill comfort in someone seeking medical care. That’s why rural areas are continually working to recruit quality physicians through incentives and, yes, branding. First, the incentives:
Thanks to federal funding, the National Health Service Corps (a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is able to give rural hospitals a recruitment leg up by offering scholarships and loan repayments to young doctors who agree to start their careers away from the city – areas with limited access to health care.
This program is experiencing some success as about 10,000 NHSC physicians are currently working in high-needs areas. But once their time of service is over, what will keep them serving in such areas? The hope, of course, is that a bond – an allegiance – will be formed that will keep some physicians working in rural areas for the long term.
That’s not good enough for one particular rural hospital in southwest Kansas, which perhaps indirectly heeds the sentiments of Simon Sinek, who we discussed recently on our blog: “If you hire people who can do a job, they’ll work for your money. If you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat and tears.” (See the full post, “Sell what you believe”, here.)
At the Ashland Health Clinic in a remotely rural part of Kansas, CEO Benjamin Anderson created a recruitment strategy based around his beliefs and the beliefs of his hospital: serving others through missionary work.
“He offers potential candidates eight weeks off to do missionary work overseas,” the article says. “Because he’s found that a doctor who’s willing to sleep on a cot in the Amazon or treat earthquake victims in Haiti is ready to serve in rural Kansas. He calls it mission-focused medicine.”
And based on early accounts, his plan’s working. Will this work for all rural hospitals? Probably not. But what makes it successful, at least at the onset, is that in selling itself and its virtues to potential candidates, the Ashland Health Clinic is being true to itself and what it believes.
Call it branding. Call it savvy recruiting. Call it simple honesty.
Truth is, it’s all of the above. And as the face of health care changes over the next few years, welcoming millions of newly insured citizens into its ranks, such belief-driven strategies could prove essentially in staying ahead in the recruiting game.