Accelerate Your Physician Engagement Efforts with These 6 Steps

Once upon a time in my career, I relocated to Brentwood, Tennessee, to help spearhead new physician engagement efforts for LifePoint Health. When surveying their hospital leadership, physician satisfaction and engagement was cited as the number one concern across the executive team. Naturally, CEOs wanted to improve physician satisfaction and retention as this led to stronger loyalty, retention and strategic growth. In turn, CNOs wanted to create better partnerships focused on driving better quality and efficiency – and CFOs wanted to protect physician investments by identifying willing partners in their quest to control costs and productivity results among employed providers.

These healthcare executives were right to look at physician engagement as the answer. According to a 2015 Gallup Physician Engagement Survey, engaged physicians tend to be more productive and have stronger referral patterns than their peers who report a lack of engagement. In my experience, this is because those who are actively engaged tend to more co-operative and willing to work through challenges while providing constructive feedback.

It’s no secret that even though health systems and hospitals have acquired or opened more than a few practices over the years, many are finding that physician engagement can’t be bought. Instead, healthcare leaders need a more direct approach to engaging doctors.

 

6 key practices I’ve used to accelerate physician engagement efforts over the last 20 years:

1. Promote effective communication between physicians & system leadership.

While many hospital leaders can connect with their physicians during MEC or Medical Staff Meetings, these meetings follow a specific agenda required by medical staff bylaws. I prefer to create less formal hospital-physician interactions like a structured rounding program or physician engagement breakfast with my C-suite. These practices have helped my teams with physician engagement in more meaningful dialogue around quality, safety, physician satisfaction, and hospital service line development. In addition to improving communication and building trust, these exchanges have also helped me identify who my future medical staff leaders might be. 

 

2. Proactively address & provide solutions for the pain points physicians & their care teams are encountering within your organization.

Whether you are capturing pain points from satisfaction survey data, conversations with your medical directors, or reports documented by your outreach team, it’s important to find a way to consistently document and triage issues in a way that allows you to offer a solution or response in a timely manner. This approach to managing the feedback loop can go a long way in helping healthcare leaders build trust with physician partners.

 

3. Invite medical staff participation in decision making & planning related to operations.

Many of the quality, satisfaction, volume and cost initiatives hospital leaders are actively engaged in today are directly or indirectly impacted by the choices made by physicians. Ultimately, I have found that physicians consider hospitals integral partners in caring for their patients and want these organizations to do well. When it comes to driving change or implementing something new, many are supportive if they (or their peers) were offered the opportunity to understand the need and share their perspective.  For me, gaining buy-in has come from fact-finding conversations with not only my medical staff leaders but also other physician champions I have identified as informal leaders or early adopters.  I have also used more formal structures like a Physician Advisory Group or Joint Operating Committee to share perspectives and gain support. 

 

4. Create opportunities to develop & support collegial relationships between those within the medical community.

In my first hospital role, physicians often met up for lunch in our physician’s lounge or chatted for a minute when passing one another in the doctor’s parking lot as our main means of physician engagement. With the emergence of hospitalist programs and other changes to the typical private practice model, these exchanges have become less common in most healthcare organizations. Designing opportunities to facilitate these exchanges among your medical community can go a long way in building and reinforcing your medical network. Some examples I have used in the past include social events, CME programming and regional medical summits built around a specific diagnosis group. One of the most effective resources I have seen hospitals and large practices use to build collegiality is dedicating an advocate like a physician liaison to facilitating relationships between providers.

 

5. Focus on opportunities to support your physicians’ professional growth.

Just like hospitals leaders, physicians are impacted by the ever-changing nature of healthcare. In many cases, their medical training doesn’t expose them to the health system knowledge needed to fully understand how population health, different payment models and other changes in the industry may impact their practice. There are other areas of personal and professional development that may help physicians better lead patient care and create more stable medical practices. Part of physician engagement involves understanding where physicians may need guidance and identifying opportunities to offer support. Many organizations do this by creating mentoring programs for their new providers as well as launching in person or online physician leadership training. 

 

6. Set measurable goals tied to physician satisfaction & physician engagement.

I have found that every medical community I have worked within is unique. An engagement strategy that works within one setting may or may not work in the next. For me, coming up with the right tactics is usually driven by reviewing specific data points that help me understand what level of engagement we have today and then set goals for where we want to realistically go next.

Some of the measures I have actively tracked include:

Leading

Lagging

Medical Staff Participation
(% of meetings attended)

Physician Satisfaction
(overall satisfaction  |  likelihood to recommend)

Issue Resolution
(days to resolve  |  % resolved on time)

HCAHPS
(doctor communication)

Significant Changes in Monthly or
Quarterly Attending Volumes

Core Measure performance

Significant Changes in Monthly or
Quarterly Referring Volumes

Referring Provider Network Integrity
(% of patients shared with my specialists)

Liaison Activity
(visit w/provider  |  provider-to-provider encounters)

Year-Over-Year Volume & Revenue Analysis

Office Council Participation
(% of meetings attended)

Attending Provider Loyalty
(% of cases captured by my org)

Email Indicators
(% open  |  % subscribe)

Provider Attrition
(% of providers who drop privileges  |  % of
providers who leave employed medical group)

Mentor Program Participation

 

Quality & Efficiency Benchmarks
(ALOS)

New Provider Retention
(turnover at 1, 3 & 5-year marks)

 

What Physician Engagement tools, resources & activities are current in place within your organization today? What ideas or opportunities from my list resonated with you? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to connect with me or schedule time with one of our solution specialists to learn more about Marketware’s product growth suite