In December of 1984, the relatively then unknown Inc. Magazine came out with their list of fastest growing companies. Among them was MDR HealthCare Search (then MD Resources), started by President and CEO Judith Berger. On the 20th anniversary of this, we decided to speak with Judith and get a picture of how the arena of physician recruitment has changed over the last 20 years.
AE: In the early 80s, the arena of physician recruitment was a bit like the wild west. There weren’t many firms out there doing what you were doing, so how did you get hospitals and health systems to utilize your recruitment services?
JB: There really weren’t many firms out there specifically for physician recruitment. One way I would often frame it was that if you are suffering from several severe symptoms, you would think it was probably worth paying to get the expertise of a physician rather than diagnosis yourself. It is the same with physician recruitment. You utilize the experience and expertise of a physician recruitment firm to find where your healthcare delivery holes are and then find the physician who can fill those holes. We also did a lot of consulting (manpower planning and conducting market analysis, cost of losing a physician), and all of the information we gathered gave us a very clear picture of what the market looked like and what it would take to get the job done. We were then able to educate our clients on the cost savings of using a search firm.
AE: Recruiting for rural practices was a large portion of your business when you first started MDR. Do you think it was easier then? What did you do to successfully fill those searches?
JB: Recruiting for rural practices has always been difficult. We use to tailor our recruitment practices to the region quite a bit, as the type of practice in the midwest versus the southeast was so different. A key part of getting a physician into these communities was making sure to get the spouse involved. We would arrange for the spouse to meet someone on their site visit that was from the same city or state that they were, so it would feel like a bit of home in this rural area. Many times I went on the visits to assist.
AE: In the Inc. Magazine article, you forecasted that primary care and the growth of multispecialty groups were the wave of the future. How were you able to accurately predict what today’s healthcare landscape would look like?
JB: We were doing so many market analysis and taking on so many searches that patterns started to emerge. We were starting to see groups forming rapidly and were getting more requests for primary care physicians, so we could see where things were heading. Then there was also the fact that these type of changes have been cyclical in the past, where the emphasis would go for specialty care to primary care and then back again.
AE: What do you think the future of healthcare will look like?
JB: I think concierge medicine is the future, especially for Primary Care. It provides very coordinated care and there is excellent communication with patients. Concierge physicians also seem to have thoroughly embraced technology, texting patients and emailing with patients. With smaller patient panels, these concierge physicians can also spend more time with each patient, but can also exacerbate the physician shortage.