One of the most common excuses for escalating healthcare costs, shoddy care and limited access to services is that healthcare is different. Traditionalists argue that the typical economic forces that lead to improvements in other industries simply don’t apply in healthcare. After reading this issue’s cover story and special report, both of which focus on physician recruitment and retention, I know one industry that healthcare is like. And that’s pro football.
As I write this, the start of the regular season is just around the corner and the 32 NFL teams in training camps are doing everything from minor tweaking to wholesale shuffling of rosters to find the right mix of players. It’s not that much different from what hospitals do with their medical staffs or practices with their doctors.This issue’s cover story by frequent contributor Jay Greene revisits the topic of doctor stealing, which occurs when one hospital or practice lures away a prominent physician from a rival in the hopes of increasing patient admissions, revenue and prestige. It’s much like one football team stealing away a veteran quarterback or running back from another team in the free-agent market. By luring away a star player, the team hopes to increase attendance, ticket revenue and championships. One twist of a knee (or scalpel) can be disastrous. This issue’s special report by reporter Jessica Zigmond tackles the issue of physician recruitment in medically underserved rural markets. One strategy being deployed by rural hospitals, practices and medical schools is that of grooming homegrown talent. They’re creating incentives for newly minted physicians to return to their home towns or practice in the communities in which they received their medical training. Again, it’s reminiscent of professional football, which relies on universities and colleges to train and prepare the next crop of rookies available in the annual draft. Scouts from professional teams constantly hunt for local college players who could make a splash in the pros. So the next time you’re trying to attract a prominent physician to your medical staff or practice, or grooming a future superstar doctor, just read the sports page or watch a few games on Sunday. You might just learn something.