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The Physician Advisor: A Nonclinical Career Within A Hospital System

Being a physician advisor is an interesting nonclinical job for doctors that need a change from clinical medicine, but want to continue to use their clinical knowledge to improve care for patients and help their colleagues and hospital systems get paid for their work. As the modern healthcare system environment becomes increasingly challenging, more and more hospitals are adding the role of physician advisors to their organization to address both practical and administrative concerns. On the physician side, as doctors experience burnout from their clinical roles, the physician advisor role offers a unique opportunity to expand upon their skillset as clinicians, but also have a more predictable lifestyle and serve as an advocate. Learn about the role of the physician advisor: what the role entails, which doctors might be a good fit, what the position pays, and more.

Summary of what it's like working as a physician advisor for a hospital system

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What does a physician advisor do?

While a physician advisor may be involved in many tasks, fundamentally, the physician advisor is expected to act as a liaison between the hospital administration and the clinical staff. This helps the physicians and other clinical staff focus on patient care, and lets the hospital administration focus on changing regulations, fighting with insurance reimbursement, etc.

The role of a physician advisor has evolved. Originally, a physician advisor was likely to be a medical director of utilization review. Now, the position is usually full-time (although part-time positions may be available) in house, and every hospital system will choose to utilize their physician advisors in different ways depending on their needs. Physician advisors now carry multiple responsibilities, such as:

  • Acting as a consultant for other physicians and providers, not only for resource utilization, but for best billing practices, medical record and documentation concerns, medical necessity, and other concerns that could cause complications for physicians and the organization

  • Engaging in discussions with insurance companies and medical directors for cases where payment or prior authorizations have been denied

  • Conducting second-level case reviews for medical necessity and assessing cases for appropriateness for hospital services or certain levels of stay

  • Assisting case management with length of stay reviews and advising attending physicians for difficult cases with non-standard plans of care situations

  • Providing recommendations on inpatient admissions and outpatient services

  • Intervening in difficult situations between patients and clinicians or patients and the hospital system

  • Reviewing national guidelines or standard of care to help guide policies within the hospital system

Who is the physician advisor role a good fit for?

Physician advisors will interface with hospital administrators, doctors and other clinicians, patients, managers, and insurance companies, amongst others, and therefore, good communication skills and emotional intelligence are critical to being successful in this role. In your role as a physician advisor, you will likely be doing a lot of explaining, so having the ability to clearly articulate and teach without being condescending or snarky is going to be key to navigating the complicated or sensitive situations you may encounter.

It is almost always required that doctors in these roles are licensed to practice medicine, and in most cases, board certified. Some states will require that you are licensed to practice in that particular state, whereas for other roles, you may just need a license to practice somewhere. 3 -5 years of experience (post-residency) is strongly recommended, and even required in certain roles. Given the discussions you will be getting involved in, this matters for credibility as well as understanding of specific situations. 

Not surprisingly, hospitalists are a favorite for this role, as they have a keen understanding of how a hospital system works and have been in the shoes of the physicians they will be advising. Internal medicine, family practice physicians, and emergency medicine physicians are also common specialties sought out for these roles, for similar reasons. Several additional subspecialities have found success in this role, including, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, and surgeons.

Regardless of specialty, hospitals hiring physician advisors heavily favor doctors with in-patient experience. Experience with utilization management is an additional bonus.

Physicians that are a good fit:

  • Have strong communication skills

  • Are people persons – not just with fellow physicians, but hospital admin, other service providers, insurance company directors, and more

  • Have an up-to-date understanding of regulation compliance, and are willing to stay up to date with inpatient medicine guidelines and regulatory requirements

  • Have good investigative and research skills, and are able to be objective 

  • Able to work efficiently and navigate complex medical charts to extract relevant information

Consider a different non-clinical career if:

  • You don’t enjoy being in a hospital

  • You prefer working side-by-side with physicians instead of acting as an intermediary between them and their employer

  • You will be very upset if people take their frustrations with the medical system out on you

  • You want to get away from the increasingly complicated administrative burdens of the healthcare system

What does being a physician advisor pay?

The salary range for a physician advisory can vary significantly based on factors such as locality, which system you’re working with, the hours you’re working, certifications, and other qualifications. Based on the experience of members of our physician communities, there is a relatively wide range between approximately $150,000 - $350,000, with most of the positions we’ve seen being in the $200,000s. Typical hourly rates tend to hover between $125-175/hour. Remember that most of these roles are 9-5 weekday sorts of positions, and wil be compensated accordingly, so there is always a tradeoff between lifestyle and compensation. Note that if you are a subspecialist physician, though you may be at the higher end of that range, these roles will not pay you at your rates as a neurosurgeon or interventional cardiologist. 

How do I get a physician advisor position with a hospital?

These positions are usually in house at hospital systems or contracted through third party companies that specialize in this space. Both part time and full time roles are available.

While we mentioned above that working as a hospitalist or inpatient physician isn’t a requirement of becoming a physician advisor, it certainly offers advantages in learning about opportunities and networking with the right people to snag the job. If you’re currently still working at a hospital, see if they employ a physician advisor. If so, reach out and ask about shadowing or open positions. So long as you don’t threaten to take their job, most people are more than willing to help you learn and grow. There are often committees and meetings within the hospital system that review complicated cases or situations related to safety, quality, or billing and coding, and you can try and attend these to learn more as well as see if you enjoy the work.

There is typically significant training that goes into becoming a physician advisor, and companies or hospital systems who are hiring doctors for these roles are looking for someone that has a true interest in the field to ensure they don’t spend time training someone who will leave in a few months. Proving that you have experience and interest is key to giving you a leg up in the hiring process. 

If your hospital–and others in the local area–doesn’t employ a physician advisor you could shadow, consider joining a committee to gain experience in quality, safety, peer review, or other topics that sync with the responsibilities outlined above.

If you aren’t already embedded with a hospital system, consider transitioning to the physician advisor role through side gig opportunities first. Great ways to gain relevant experience while networking with those you could potentially work with is doing utilization review, appeal work, or benefits management.

Searching job boards for physician advisors is another way to seek opportunities, especially if they are limited in your local area. Make sure you have an updated LinkedIn profile and polished resume before you begin applying for openings.

You can also get started or get more information by going to the American College of Physician Advisors website, which offers training programs and resources for those doing this work.

What should I consider or ask about when interviewing for a physician advisor position?

Because every physician advisor role is different, the first thing to make sure you understand is exactly what your role entails. Just from reading the list above on the different hats a physician advisor can wear, you can imagine that you may be asked to do a million different tasks depending on what hospitals and physicians need. Making sure that your role is clearly defined so that you know where to prioritize your time is important, as it’s a slippery slope into becoming a catch all role that isn’t able to effectively do the things the system needs most from you.

Also inquire about what sort of training that you will be provided with to ensure that you can do your job well. While you’re very familiar with inpatient medicine, you may need a refresher on things like billing and coding, ICD, up to date standard of care and best practices, etc.

It’s also important to make sure that you have the support of the administration, and that the administration is aware of why guidelines exist. You’re going to find yourself in sticky situations where your recommendations aren’t popular, and other clinicians or managers may complain about you. The administration should also be open to changing policies and procedures if something that they are doing is outside of the standard of care nationally. They should respect the expertise you will have from the national data.

Last but not least, make sure that you’re doing this for the right reasons. It’s always better to run towards something than run away from something, as you risk running towards a position that you will also dislike and contribute to burnout if you don’t fundamentally enjoy this work. Make sure you ask yourself why you are leaving clinical medicine. Often, for physicians that still enjoy the heart of what they do clinically but are just frustrated with their current situation, there are better alternatives to leaving clinical medicine, such as changing the way you work or your job.


While at first it might seem like a physician advisor is the underling of the big hospital system, the position is actually a critical role to help advocate for your fellow physicians. As a physician advocate, you can help mitigate a lot of the frustrations that contribute to physician burnout.

If working as a physician advisor for a hospital doesn’t sound like the next right step for you or you need to bridge the experience gap before transitioning, check out several other options available.

Learn more

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