November 5, 2022

Virtual Care Playbook: Recruiting and Hiring Providers

How (and where) to find the right clinicians to build out your care team.

Regardless of what types of providers you need for your care team, recruiting and retaining top talent is critical to creating a high quality virtual care offering. You can offer the most convenient care, innovative treatments, or the best prices, but at the end of the day, the interaction between a patient and their provider is the cornerstone of the patient experience. 

The landscape for hiring providers for a role in virtual care is much different than it was just a few years ago. Many more providers see virtual care delivery as a viable career option, and are excited about the innovative ways healthcare companies are utilizing technology to solve the problems they face every day. Not to mention that pandemic-induced burnout has many clinicians reevaluating their futures. This environment has its pros and cons- providers don’t need to be convinced that virtual care is a legitimate career path, but they're also becoming more selective about the organizations they work with and are paying attention to the provider experiences those organizations build. 

In this article, we’ll discuss approaches to honing in on the right profile for your provider team, as well as some approaches to sourcing candidates. 

Finding the Right Fit

Before you start hiring, just like for any open role, you need to nail down the key skills and qualifications you want providers to possess so you can build your hiring process to test those skills. Depending on the type of care you’re delivering, there will of course be specific clinical qualifications for candidates. Beyond those must-have requirements, there are a few key dimensions to consider when it comes to virtual care:

How will providers be communicating with patients? 

Depending on your care model, they may be using audio, video, or written communication, so be sure to test these skills during your interview process. Written communication in particular can be a challenging skill to master. In a virtual setting you need clinicians to be able to convey empathy through written messages and clearly explain their recommendations or decisions in non-medical jargon. Providers with mostly in-person care experience may need extra training on this front.   

What types of tools and products will they need to master?

If you're at an early stage, you likely have a provider experience that consists of a suite of cobbled together solutions (i.e. an EHR plus a few tools for patient communication, scheduling, and task management). While that’s normal, make sure you’re hiring people who are willing and able to learn new technology and processes, and that you’re explaining both the current and potential future state to them. The good news is, most providers are very used to working with less than ideal technology to do their jobs. 

How will they operate in a “startup” environment? 

Most providers are used to working in heavily structured workplaces with clear hierarchy, processes, and policies. When evaluating potential candidates, you should be clear on what they should expect and test their willingness to adapt to change. There are many people who thrive in that type of environment and are looking for a less bureaucratic workplace, so for the right candidates this will be a selling point! 

Why are they interested in virtual care? 

Be wary of providers who are overly-focused on pursuing virtual care due to burnout and the appeal of working from home, or the ability to earn extra cash, especially when building your early team. You want providers who are genuinely excited about offering excellent care options for patients and who are invested in the mission and vision of your company. 

Your first few clinical hires are just as critical as your early hires in any other area of the business, and you should evaluate them against the same standards (Are they aligned with your mission? Are they able to work effectively with cross-functional teams? Will they be additive to the culture you’re building?). Not only will they set the tone for your patient experience, but they will be your best window into how patients are interacting with the team and where there might be gaps in your processes or tools. Having a clinical team that is actively engaged in improving your offering will help you iterate quickly. 

Sourcing (or outsourcing) 

Once you’ve determined how to evaluate potential candidates, there are many options for sourcing or even hiring providers. If you are not interested in (or unable to manage) owning your provider network, companies like Wheel or SteadyMD offer a complete staffing solution for a range of provider types. While these companies can provide quick access to clinicians with the state licensing and credentials you need, if you choose this route, you are trading convenience for control of your provider and patient experience. In most cases, along with their clinical staff, they also have their own patient and provider technology, and manage provider training and clinical protocols. Depending on how much of that experience you want to own, complete outsourcing of your clinical talent may or may not be the right solution for you. 

Outside of the usual recruiting options like Indeed or LinkedIn, there are plenty of healthcare-specific job boards and recruiting options available to assist with sourcing candidates (Doximity, for example, reports to have over 1 million physician members). As is the case with most recruiting tools, they may result in a high volume of candidates, most of whom may not meet your qualifications, but they can be helpful when you’re starting out and don’t have brand name recognition of some of the larger virtual care companies and are unlikely to get inbound applications.  

Regardless of how you recruit providers, never lose sight of the fact that the interaction between your patients and their care team will have the largest impact on their experience. Especially when you’re starting out and hiring your first few providers. Those foundational hires will set the tone for your clinical team, and they can also become your best advocates for future hiring needs. As you scale, clinical recruiting will be a core competency for success. Being able to successfully recruit additional providers that are able to address the needs of your patients and build strong relationships with them is a critical skill, so don’t be afraid to invest in this area early on. Having dedicated clinical recruiting resources will help you stay on top of your recruiting needs and avoid any desperate hiring decisions. 

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