The Top 3 Reasons Your ER Is Suffering From Low Physician Retention Rates

Anyone who runs an emergency room can attest to just how high physician turnover can be disruptive. Low retention rates can make it feel like you’re taking two steps back for every step forward you make.

According to a Physician Retention Survey conducted by Cejka Search and the American Medical Group Association, medical groups reported a total turnover of 6.8% in 2013, compared to 5.9% in 2009 and 6.5% in 2011[1]. While these figures reflect physicians in every field of specialization, one can extrapolate that the statistics for ED physicians would be even higher, considering the high burnout rates associated with emergency room physicians.

The High Cost of Turnover

Certainly, a large portion of the turnover rate can be attributed to factors over which you have little or no control, such as retirement. Nevertheless, the associated costs of replacing an ER physician are significant. To begin, recruiting costs will be in the neighborhood of $60,000 or more. When you factor in training, orientation costs, and reduced productivity for the first few months, the total costs rocket up to more than $150,000.

All the more reason to make every effort to retain your emergency physicians. When a doctor chooses to leave, it’s because the draw of what they perceive to be a better situation outweighs the stress associated with making the change and joining a new team.

Here are three of the main reasons your ER may be suffering from low retention rates:

1 – Work – Life Balance

There’s no doubt that working in an emergency room can be stressful. The hours can be long, and the workload can be heavy. Another survey conducted by Cejka Search[2] indicates that a good work-life balance is among the elements of engagement most valued by physicians. However, this point was also among the lowest scoring marks when rating their current practice. As the scales continue to tip and move out of balance, retention rates will likely suffer.


2 – Issues with the Medical Billing and Coding System

Efficiency is one aspect that is non-negotiable if you want your ER to function effectively and keep your doctors around longer. When issues with medical billing and coding continually cause problems, the frustration and excess time involved to make them right can cause some physicians to look elsewhere. Some of the main problems faced by emergency rooms include failing to link diagnosis codes, selecting the incorrect procedure code, randomly using modifiers and not keeping the system updated.

3 – Work Environment

This is probably the most significant and most contentious motivator pushing physicians to leave emergency rooms. The work environment encompasses a broad spectrum of elements ranging from feeling respected and appreciated to the emergency room operations and systems.

Fixing the Retention Problem

The first step in addressing the issue is to ensure you have solid recruitment strategies and practices in place. Investing more time and energy from the outset to ensure your candidates will be a good fit within the organization will pay dividends down the road.

The next piece of the puzzle is to improve on the individual employee engagement. ER Directors can take significant steps in accomplishing this by having a good ongoing dialogue with their physicians to understand their complaints and issues. Doctors need to feel valued and understood, just like any other employee.

Directors must strive to understand what pain points may exist within the emergency department, such as understaffing, billing issues or coding problems. Of course, they must also provide solutions to these points of frustration. At Lotris Medical, we provide comprehensive medical billing and coding solutions, making your ER run much more efficiently, effectively boosting physician retention.


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