There is one constant in the healthcare environment; it is always changing. With the changes over the past few years, an increasing number of healthcare system and hospital leaders are acknowledging the importance of employee and physician engagement. The resiliency of both doctors and health care employees during times of change, can determine whether a healthcare system maintains its high quality of care and patient service.
Physician engagement is critical to the success of a hospital or healthcare system. In one hospital system studied by Gallup, engaged physicians gave the hospital an average of 3% more outpatient referrals and 51% more inpatient referrals than physicians who were not engaged or who were actively disengaged.
Engaged physicians don't necessarily work longer hours than other doctors, but they are more productive. In the healthcare system mentioned previously, fully engaged and engaged physicians were 26% more productive than their less engaged counterparts, which amounts to an additional $460,000 on average in patient revenue per physician per year. Investment in an engaged culture is worthwhile from an ROI standpoint alone.
The rapid pace of reform is requiring health care leaders to accelerate progress on physician engagement initiatives. Our own Stress & Burnout Survey of over 2,000 physicians reported only 18% of the respondents felt their organizations were effectively helping them to deal with stressors and over 47% felt they could more effectively reduce their stress levels if their administration had a better understanding of the challenges physicians face. (download the full report here). An administration who understands and works with physicians to support them has a strategic differentiator in terms of engagement – as well as with retention and even recruitment. To that end, physicians and hospital administrators may find a road map useful for improving the level of engagement. Such a road map can be enhanced by specific measures designed to show whether the engagement initiative is achieving meaningful results.
A recent article in H&HN Daily proposes one such road map in the form of 12 positive actions — six for administrators and six for physicians. The following list of actions – each of which is quantifiable in specific measures meaningful to all parties – highlights what administrators and physicians can do to improve engagement.
6 Things Administrators Can Do for Physicians
- Work closely with physician leaders to help keep the practice groups stable, improve physician satisfaction and reduce turnover. Attend physician meetings when possible as a positive presence so the physicians recognize they are being heard and acknowledged, while allowing them to drive the agenda. Demonstrate a willingness to engage equally with independent physicians and hospital-employed physicians.
- Create career paths for physicians to prepare them for leadership roles with increasing responsibility. For example, provide rotating committee memberships, task forces, research opportunities and executive/leadership coaching through which they can develop leadership and administrative skills. Invite physicians to attend meetings on topics ranging beyond a clinical scope.
- In a spirit of transparency, share with the physicians the financial and operational goals of the hospital. Help them view the hospital's objectives through an administrator's eyes and understand how administrators plan to engage the physicians in meeting those goals.
- Make regular visits into the community to meet with the hospital's constituents on their turf. Visit local post-acute facilities and review programs to avoid readmissions. Make joint calls on the hospital's referral sources, such as post-acute care facilities and community primary care physicians, and thank them for their confidence in the hospital's capabilities.
- Openly share information about physician turnover and retention rates. Connect this effort with physician and patient satisfaction scores to set up a formal program for improvement.
- Provide the physicians with more protected nonclinical time for engagement-related activities. Offer physicians the training and educational resources to increase their knowledge in such fields as health care economics and to improve skills such as team-building dynamics and interpersonal communications.
6 Things Physicians Can Do for Administrators
- Take the time to learn about the big picture: how the hospital aims to achieve its goals for each of its stakeholders. (Bear in mind, however, each facility has its own unique set of circumstances.) This knowledge will help physicians to determine the best way to serve the hospital's goals in conjunction with their personal and professional goals.
- Learn the basics of hospital accounting and finance. This is necessary to truly grasp the perspective of the hospitals' administrative leaders. Even an eight-hour online course would be a great way to start, and it can be done with continuing medical education credits.
- During your patient encounters, seek opportunities to characterize your facility and the medical staff in a way that communicates confidence. This is a simple but often-overlooked step for physicians. Patients may take this into account in their post-discharge evaluations of a hospital.
- Balance the need for autonomy in treating patients with the responsibility to make systems-oriented decisions to benefit the facility as a whole. Contribute to the systems-related issues important to the hospital over the long term.
- Concentrate work time at one facility and minimize part-time work at other facilities. Engaging at one facility is challenging enough; physicians who work with systems and staffs at two or more facilities often prove less able to engage in a meaningful way.
- Recognize the hospital's physician leaders carry significant responsibility in ensuring engagement is successful and yields the intended results. Leaders of each practice group active in the hospital, whether employed or independent, should have a specific engagement plan developed in concert with hospital administrators and should play an active role in peer-to-peer accountability.
The Rewards of Meaningful Engagement
A paucity of positive engagement between physicians and hospital administrators frequently lies beneath a surface of a formal calm. Uneasy relationships between physicians and administrators can negatively impact patient care, an outcome that may not go unnoticed by the patients.
The new era of health care reform necessitates and rewards close integration and strong team-building between all stakeholders in the inpatient delivery system. Health systems with a demonstrated ability to create engaged physicians, employees and administrators will possess a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace. More important, facilities and medical groups able to successfully negotiate obstacles to achieve a fuller and more complete engagement with one another will create superior results for their patients.
We Can Help
VITAL WorkLife recognizes organizational health and well being directly impacts patient care, safety and engagement, as well as staff relationships, productivity, efficiency and workplace satisfaction. With a comprehensive set of consultative solutions we provide appropriate coaching and support to help physicians and organizations achieve their goals.
VITAL WorkLife also offers a comprehensive set of resources designed specifically for physicians and providers — Physician Well Being Resources. This include access to our extensive network of master’s or doctorate level licensed behavioral health counselors, peer coaches, executive coaches and mentors who can work with you to accomplish many different objectives — including leadership development, well being and lifestyle changes, and stress and burnout management.
Contact us at 877.731.3949 to learn more about Organizational and Leadership Consulting or Physician Well Being Resources—or to speak with one of our representatives. We’re available anytime, day or night.