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Media Release

February 8 2008

Marketing concepts set to ease rural GP shortage

Marketing concepts could help attract and retain doctors in rural areasMarketing concepts such as branding, advertising and customer relationships can be used to help rural general practices recruit and retain general practitioners (GPs) and ease the GP shortage, according to a recent UniSA study.

With fewer than 40 per cent of rural GPs surveyed intending to remain in rural regions over the next ten years, UniSA’s Marketing Program Director Dr Elizabeth Hemphill said it was exciting to see how commercial marketing theory could help alleviate such a pressing social issue.

“By using marketing concepts, the practice could view GPs as ‘customers’ and other practices as ‘healthy competition’ in what is a competitive market for GPs, and could begin to ‘target’ their customers effectively.

“Customer satisfaction is a key premise of marketing and we found that, by looking at the GP as a customer, the practice could evaluate their ‘product’ in line with GP perceptions and expectations.”

The study also recommended that rural practices consider “branding” to better attract and retain GPs and more research is already underway to determine what factors persuade practitioners to choose one practice over another.

“We already know from other researchers that there are three main factors which come into play when GPs make decisions about employment - opportunities for professional development, opportunities for their spouse and community support,” Dr Hemphill said.

“We’re looking a little deeper into these factors to gain insight into the choices of practitioners - the critical factors that determine what GPs really value and the trade-offs they are willing to make to choose or stay in rural areas.”

Dr Hemphill said the issues of recruitment naturally reached into human resource management and will team up with fellow UniSA Research Professor in Human Resource Management, Professor Carol Kulik for the next stage of the project.

Once the second round of research has been completed in March, Dr Hemphill and her colleagues will be looking for practices interested in applying some of the concepts.

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