Medical Recruiting Insights

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Community Needs Assessment: Essential to Your Physician Recruiting Strategy

Adaptive Medical Partners | Healthcare Administrators, Physician Recruiting

Reactionary recruiting — where attempts to recruit physicians occur in response to immediate vacancies — takes longer, costs more and stresses staff, patients and the practice or hospital system. Strategic physician recruiting anticipates turnover, identifies patient needs, considers the organization’s goals and seeks to fill gaps in available services. Proactive, data-driven recruiting plans begin with a community needs assessment.


A community needs assessment provides several benefits:

  • Business sense: The needs assessment provides a clearer picture of your staffing, utilization and service gaps, which can be used in clarifying organizational strategy.
  • Recruitment: A clear assessment helps build buy-in for recruitment among the current medical staff, and also shows potential candidates that there is a documented need for their services.
  • Stark Law compliance: As an incentive to physicians to relocate their medical practice, hospitals can offer certain financial benefits when there is documented evidence of a community need for the recruited physician’s services. Stark Law regulations, which prohibit physician self-referrals, restrict recruiting payments that can be given and incur hefty penalties when violated, allowing more flexibility when a needs assessment demonstrates an urgent community need for the recruited services.


Your organization will need to engage an outside, independent party to conduct a community needs assessment. The assessor will survey members of your staff and should also contact other providers in the area.


The community needs assessment assesses the current and future provider supply and demand within each specialty in your service area. This identifies the total need and points out existing and potential staffing gaps. The following elements are typically included in the analysis:

  • Physician-to-population ratios for benchmarking purposes
  • Community physicians’ assessments of gaps in specialties or services
  • Analysis of local conditions that might influence community health or impact providers’ decisions to relocate
  • Age of established physicians and when they are likely to retire
  • Patient demographics, especially age
  • Incidence of certain diseases
  • Insurance coverage and access to health care services
  • Barriers to care, such as language limitations or lack of transportation options
  • Hospital admissions data


The first step in conducting a community needs assessment is defining the community. Stark Law specifies that “the geographic area served by the hospital is the area composed of the lowest number of contiguous zip codes from which the hospital draws at least 75 percent [90 percent for rural hospitals] of its inpatients.” A hospital may include zip codes with no patients, as long as those zip codes are entirely surrounded by the contiguous zip codes with patients.

The assessment should indicate whether the hospital or medical facility is located within a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). If so, then recruiting restrictions under Stark Law and other federal regulations are fewer.


A formal community needs assessment should be completed every two to three years.


Information is usually gathered from multiple sources, including:

  • Surveys and live interviews of physicians and hospital administrators, and possibly community members, hospital board representatives and significant employers in the area.
  • Quantitative analysis of population health data and community demographics.
  • Qualitative analysis related to provider access, such as review of appointment wait times.

Adaptive Medical Partners can help you find the physicians you need. Contact us to discuss your community needs assessment findings and how we can work together to address gaps in staffing.