How to Negotiate the Best Raise Possible

Shelly Reese


July 27, 2016

In This Article

You Need to Sell Yourself

Like anyone else lobbying for more money, doctors need to make a business case for themselves. "You can't just look at me and say, 'I'm a great doctor,' because I'm going to look you in the eye and say, 'All our doctors are great,'" says Dennis Hursh, an attorney in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and author of The Final Hurdle: A Physician's Guide to Negotiating a Fair Employment Agreement.

How do you do that? Make sure you know your value.Value is today's healthcare buzzword, and it needs to be the cornerstone of your argument. Assess your value to the organization in several ways, and have data to back it up.

First, take a critical look at your performance. "It's not enough to provide good care and stick to schedules," Hertz says. "That's expected." Know your productivity relative to your peers. How do you fare when it comes to quality metrics and patient satisfaction? Are you a good corporate citizen? Do you serve in a leadership position or on committees? Before stepping into negotiations, take a hard look in the mirror."

Second, look at your value to the organization. What are the goals and objectives of your hospital or group? What specifically have you done to advance them?

Third, understand your value in the broader marketplace, Hursh says. The demand for various specialties waxes and wanes. Physicians in your specialty may be commanding higher salaries today than they were when you signed your last contract. "Keep your eye on the benchmarks," Hursh recommends.

Look for Opportunities to Expand Your Role

Negotiating a higher salary may be a no-go for your employer for both financial and regulatory reasons: The principle of "fair market value" embedded in anti–self-referral and antikickback laws limits the amount hospitals can pay physicians. That said, if you can expand your role, you can increase your overall compensation. If you are willing to take on additional administrative responsibilities, consider negotiating for a medical directorship or another position that will provide a stipend, says Dr Knoll.

Know Your Productivity

Physicians who are especially productive might lobby for a productivity-based bonus, Hursh says. But this strategy only works if physicians are pretty confident they'll hit those targets. If hospital-employed physicians choose that approach, he cautions them to base their productivity bonus on relative value units rather than collections. Hertz cautions doctors that in focusing on productivity, they're running counter to the direction healthcare is heading; consequently, those working for more progressive organizations might reconsider such an approach, or at least make sure it's in line with their hospital's goals.

See Whether Your Patient Mix Has Changed

If you practice in more than one specialty area, over time your patients mix may drift. If you find yourself with a larger share of patients from a higher-paying area, request that your compensation be adjusted accordingly, Hursh says.

Leverage a Competing Offer -- but Be Careful

Recognize that playing the "competing offer" card comes with big potential payoffs and big caveats. First, never lie about having another offer. "You don't want to play chicken," Hursh says.

Second, recognize that your employer may say, "We can't match that offer, best of luck to you"—in which case, you have to be ready to move or back down.


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