Don’t Pay Attention to This Lesson From Henry Ford: Physicians are Not Produced on Production Lines
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Don’t Pay Attention to This Lesson From Henry Ford: Physicians are Not Produced on Production Lines


Henry Ford offered a second lesson for medical group leaders.

To refresh your memory, I remarked upon the first over a decade ago in the post From Pigs to Model T’s to Medical Care, a lesson that’s still valuable.

But today, let’s turn to his famous quip, uttered, according to his 1922 autobiography, My Life and Work, in 1909: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Part of Ford’s plan to simplify the production line process to reduce the cost of production and increase the ultimate affordability of the product, uniformity led to tremendous success.

But despite many attempts to pretend it’s so, healthcare is not a production line either for patients or for employed or subcontracted physicians.

Why then, do so many medical groups miss this fact as a relates to the physicians working for them, whether as employees or as independent contractors?

In all fairness, it’s likely a function of the fact that for decades, there was a tremendous supply of potential recruits, such that groups could more or less dictate, within reason, of course, the terms of the deal. In other words, any color as long as it’s black; any deal as long as it’s the one we say is the only one we’re offering.

But whether you want to call it the “great resignation” or the “work/life balance religion” or just “the way it is”, it doesn’t make any difference, it’s the market within which nearly all medical groups must operate today.

So, rather than court frustration trying to force square pegs into round holes, consider a different approach to recruiting, which is to offer a menu of choices, or even custom design, to employment and subcontract relationships.

Certainly, this requires more work and more thinking and has a higher transaction cost than photocopying another duplicate of a 17-year-old employment agreement, but the object isn’t to have employment agreements, it’s to have employees. Employment agreements, and subcontracts, too, don’t treat patients, physicians do. And, of course, the same thing can be said as to other members of your team.

Shift the conversation from “will you work with” us to “how can we design a way to have you work with us”.

Let’s talk about how this small shift in thinking can drive big returns for your medical group.

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