Let’s Talk about Why Qualitative Information Matters in Your Physician Needs Assessment

One of the questions that invariably arise when discussing a physician needs assessment with a client or prospective client is whether they should incorporate qualitative information into their process.Quite frankly, my answer is always, “yes!” and here are the reasons why.The traditional needs assessment always includes quantitative information such as a supply/demand analysis and surplus/deficit analysis by specialty. Quantitative analysis is a given aspect of the process and can be directional in its results. While this component is necessary and helpful, looking only at data can leave one somewhat confused or unclear about specific physician needs.Our experience is that using qualitative information coupled with quantitative data can be highly beneficial in fully developing a physician needs assessment and, more specifically, an actionable recruitment plan for an organization. We recommend engaging the medical community and health system leadership in this process. In utilizing this approach, you solicit input and encourage buy-in to the overall process and ultimate strategies adopted by an organization.We have also found that qualitative information can make the overall needs assessment come alive. For example, the data provide insights into the community's quantitative needs by specialty, while qualitative information can provide further insights into each specialty's needs.We recently completed a client project, and the data indicated that the current supply of physicians in a specific specialty was adequate. However, based on the medical community's input, we found that there were significant concerns about patient access, the ability to get timely consults, and found that many physicians routinely referred patients out of the community rather than deal with the non-responsiveness of physicians in this specialty. The data alone would have never told us a specialty that appeared to be okay turned out to be a recruitment need for this organization.We have also found that working with specialties in recruitment planning can be easier when you have documented information from peers and health system leaders about the specialty's needs. If you can point to a report that outlines concerns about access or referrals from other physicians, the response tends to be more accepting. While physicians tend to be data-driven people, the input from peers typically significantly impacts their thinking.

What is the best way to start gathering qualitative data?

Organizations can use instruments such as surveys of the medical staff as an information-gathering tool. A well-crafted survey will provide an opportunity for medical staff members to weigh in with their perspectives. Additionally, individual meetings with medical staff members to address specific areas and gather input is also useful.In summary, the medical community's input and health system leadership can be a vital component of a comprehensive physician needs assessment.

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