Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Segmenting a General Practitioner Market to Improve Recruitment Outcomes

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Segmenting a General Practitioner Market to Improve Recruitment Outcomes

Article excerpt

The shortage of medical professionals has reached a crisis point in some regions.1 The problem of attracting medical professionals, especially general practitioners (GPs), to areas of dire need is not confined to rural regions or areas with particular healthcare issues (e.g. Indigenous communities).2,3 Research examining how GPs commit to a practice location has identified many economic (e.g. pay), work content (e.g. on call work), familial (e.g. spousal work) and individual (e.g. region of origin) attributes that play a role in attracting and retaining health professionals.4,5 But further research is required to develop effective recruitment strategies which will attract GPs to general practices experiencing GP shortages.1,6

Integrating findings from a marketing perspective with the human resources management (HRM) literature might generate creative strategies for addressing the GP understaffing problem.7 Potential job applicants can be reconceptualised as 'consumers', explicitly recognising that these consumers have differentiated needs and interests.8 Rather than relying on 'one-size-fits-all' recruitment ads, practices ('sellers') can target GPs ('consumers') through customised advertising and relationship development activities that directly address those differentiated needs and interests.

However, before a seller can develop a differentiated advertising strategy they must understand the segments that constitute the larger market of consumers, i.e. the seller must know who the customers are.9 A market segment is a homogeneous group of consumers10 with a systematic and predictable response to sellers' differentiated signals.11 Segmentation studies typically emphasise demographic variables, such as country of origin,12 gender,13 and age, occupation, education and income.14 Unfortunately, segmentation studies focussing on demographic variables have failed to identify GP cohorts whose differences can be exploited in recruitment activities. Segmentation studies for GP recruitment to rural areas experiencing particularly dire GP shortages have tentatively suggested targeted recruiting of 'young learners',15 or 'family-aged women'.16 But it is unclear what distinctive value medical practices can offer to these cohorts. Further, even if viable demographic cohorts were identified, legislation prohibits recruitment and selection on the basis of many demographic variables (e.g. age and gender).17

An alternative strategy for market segmentation is to directly assess consumers' product preferences. Differentiated consumer preferences could be directly built into recruitment advertising to demonstrate 'fit' between the unique attributes offered by a medical practice 'brand' and a GP's personal needs and interests. 18 By creating a unique, favourable brand image in consumers' minds, sellers increase the likelihood that their products or services will be chosen over competitors' products or services. 19 The central concept of branding is directly applicable when the advertised 'product' is a job.20,21 Employers can distinguish themselves from competitors by emphasising their unique attributes and by targeting potential applicants who value those particular attributes.22,23 By targeting individuals who value what it offers, an employer can increase its likelihood of filling openings.9,23

The recruitment literature has identified a wide array of attributes that are important to prospective job applicants.13,24 With respect to GPs, 34 different attributes are considered useful in attracting GPs to understaffed practices.25 Such attribute lists, however, can be subsumed by a more succinct typology consisting of Family support, Job, and Organisation factors.26 Family support factors include attributes such as work opportunities available at the job's location for a spouse or partner.3 Job factors include aspects of the job offering (e.g. opportunities offered to develop or practice skills).5 Organisation factors include characteristics of the hiring organisation, such as governance and structure. …

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