A great deal of hard work, talent, perseverance and patience goes into building a medical practice. The laborious work coupled with emergencies can sap a physician’s strength. As they gather age and experience, many physicians find it taxing to meet the demands of this hectic profession. However, a few of them decide to find a successor before retiring. Thus, a doctor’s sudden absence, either due to illness, disability or demise unsettles the patients’ treatments. Hence, arises the need for an efficient succession planning, necessary to be done by all medical professionals.

Following are the best practices in succession planning for medical practice.

Protocol design

The management should be clear, as to what steps will be taken for finding a successor to a medical practice. A new physician should be hired keeping in mind the specialty and patient-base of the retiring doctor. The new appointee should be made comfortable with the methods of working of the senior physician as well as the hospital. The search for a new physician should be given adequate time, the ideal can be as early as 12 months before retirement1.

Estimation of the number of physicians needed

In a busy medical practice, be it in a clinic, nursing home or hospital, it is vital to keep statistics of the patients’ illness and treatment. The hiring manager should be aware about the number of patients taking treatment from the retiring doctor and search for a successor accordingly. At times, more than one doctor might be required to be recruited for a similar specialty in case the patient load is expected to rise.

Protocols as regards timelines

An adequate amount of time needs to be given for finding a suitable successor. This time may be more in case specialists are involved. A new recruit should be encouraged to get in touch as a locum with the set up early on to familiarize themselves with the working environment.

Retaining the Recruit

Once the new physician has taken charge, it is essential that they work in the same capacity for a prolonged time. To retain a new physician, contracts can be made to suit both the medical set up as well as the new physician. In case of partial retirement2, the newly recruited physician should be made aware of the expectations and duties.

Contingency plans

It is sometimes possible not to find a replacement for a senior physician, as in cases of sudden demise. In such cases, the patients of the treating physician should be informed promptly via mail or telephonic messages. In such cases, replacement can be found for short term, till a permanent, competent successor is found.

Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD

References

1-Succession Planning

http://www.healthforceontario.ca/UserFiles/file/Floating/Program/Recruiter%20U/recruitment-essentials-sp-en.pdf

2-Medical Economics

http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/content/modernmedicine/modern-medicine-feature-articles/exit-and-succession-planni?page=full.