The Untouchables: Personality Assessments for Reducing Cost and Improving the Patient Experience

By 2025, Shortage of: 68,000 Physicians & 260,000 Nurses; Cost of Turnover: Over $800,000 per Physician, Between $22,000-$64,000 per Nurse; Personality Assessments: Link between Personality Traits, Care Experience and Reduced Costs

This is a time of tremendous change in healthcare. With or without the Affordable Healthcare Act, there are increasing demands for care at the same time that competition for patients and patient referrals are increasing. As costs continue to escalate and patients move to a consumer mentality, providers are pressed to reduce costs while improving the patient experience as they compete for market share. This is the first blog in a series that explores how Corvirtus’ expertise in hiring and talent management addresses challenges of quality care and competition in healthcare.

To help businesses compete, our Team has tackled the challenges of delivering quality service and creating intentional customer experiences. While pre-employment assessments are readily used across other industries, healthcare is the final frontier where tools like personality tests are not leveraged to improve individual and team performance, reduce costs, and, most

importantly,  improve and differentiate patient care. Healthcare positions are often viewed as “The Untouchables” where intuition and gut-instinct for hiring and management are frequently used over evidence-based best practices.

Employee turnover is a huge obstacle to reducing costs and improving care, as well as the patient experience.  With an anticipated shortage of 68,000 physicians by 2025, consider the cost of turnover for one physician:

  • $40,000 in minimum recruitment costs
  • $300,000 in lost billings
  • $500,000 in lost inpatient revenue
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Turnover costs for nurses and nursing assistants, while less per employee, can match those of physicians because of the greater volume of employees and higher turnover rates. Annual turnover for nursing assistants is regularly 100 percent, with many facilities experiencing turnover rates as high as 400 percent. With an anticipated shortage of 260,000 nurses by 2025, the costs of turnover below will only increase:

  • $22,000 to $64,000 average replacement cost per nurse
  • Higher rate of malpractice claims
  • Increased rate of infections
  • Reduced patient improvement in residential facilities
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What is clear from the numbers for physicians and nurses, is that reduced turnover is the single largest opportunity for cost saving and profit in healthcare. Maximizing these opportunities starts with improved hiring procedures.

Why Use Personality Tests for Healthcare Positions?

Medical knowledge and patient care skills can be measured and verified in standardized ways, but it’s much more difficult to measure fit with the employer’s culture and intended patient experience. With the need to infuse the patient experience with a service and hospitality focus, more healthcare organizations are establishing clear expectations for patient interactions and quality of care in the hopes of differentiating themselves in a sea of healthcare choices. To hire candidates that consistently perform to expectations and feel a sense of connection with their employer’s values and goals, measuring personality should carry as much weight as board exam scores and verifying credentials.

Reasons for turnover across healthcare positions include a lack of commitment to a specific vision for care, lack of quality co-workers and teamwork, and dissatisfaction with expectations and policies and procedures. These reasons reflect poor fit with the organizational culture and expectations – something personality assessments are designed to address.

Evidence-Based Assessments Reduce Costs & Drive a Positive Patient Experience.

Significant evidence supports the link between specific personality traits, the care experience, and reduced costs.

Nursing. Recent studies link impulsivity and apathy (lack of concern or interest in the thoughts and feelings of others) to lower quality of care. This is crucial to healthcare organizations wanting to integrate a hospitality and service focus into the care experience.

Physicians. Specific personality profiles are associated with ordering excessive medical diagnostic tests. Specifically, high levels of risk aversion and significant discomfort in basing decisions on clear but incomplete information predict excessive test orders. High introversion also predicts excessive test ordering, perhaps related to a reluctance to gather information through conversation with the patient.

Pre-employment personality assessments can be designed to measure the specific personality traits that predict performance for a healthcare provider’s intended patient care experience, whether a hospital, outpatient, or long-term care facility. Assessment results can also enable coaching for new hires in areas that may impede performance.

Hiring candidates in healthcare that execute the intended patient care experience, fit the culture and vision, and are likely to stay, is essential to improving patient care and reducing costs. How do you see talent management playing a role in improving healthcare? We are eager to continue the discussion in the comments below or on social media.


Nursing Shortage. (2015).  American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The role of personality and self-efficacy in the selection and retention of successful nursing students: a longitudinal study.  (2008). Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Physician Turnover: A costly problem. (2015).  Physician Leadership Journal.

Do you have the “Right Stuff” to be a doctor?  (2010).  New York Times.

Testy Personalities.  (2015).  Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

The Costs and Benefits of Nurse Turnover: A Business Case for Nurse Retention.  (2007). The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.

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