Healthcare News & Insights

Good cultural fit keeps physicians happy, hospitals saving money

Cutting costs while providing better care is the mantra most hospital administrators are chanting nowadays. One way to cut costs: Keep your physicians happy so they don’t leave. It’s been estimated that turnover and prolonged physician vacancy can cost a facility as much as $100,000 per month. Organizations can avoid these costs and achieve significant returns by investing in the cultivation of “cultural fit.”

If you think your physicians are happy at your facility and your hospital is doing a good job hiring physicians who are a good fit with your culture, you may find the results of this 2012 study surprising.

A new Physician Wellness Services and Cejka Search study found substantial gaps between physicians’ satisfaction and experience with key cultural attributes in their healthcare organizations. The study, which surveyed 2,200 physician and 123 administrators, examined the influence of 14 cultural attributes on physicians’ overall satisfaction and their perceptions about their organization’s performance related to those attributes.

Interestingly, a companion study of hospital administrators found that while administrators had a good sense of what’s important to physicians’ satisfaction with regards to organizational culture, in the eyes’ of the physicians administrators were coming up short.

Cultural fit determining factor

In fact, there’s often a disconnect between what physicians look for, what they actually find and what hospitals think they’re providing.

“In our work with physicians and healthcare organizations, we find that this often leads to dissatisfaction, frustration and cynicism, sometimes with behavioral impacts,” said Dr. Dan Whitlock, Physician Wellness Services consulting physician. “At a time when physician engagement is of paramount importance and healthcare organizations seek to promote satisfaction and loyalty, closing these organizational culture gaps can have a strongly positive impact.”

Very often cultural fit is a determining factor in whether a physician joins an organization or leaves it. This is extremely important since turnover and prolonged physician vacancy can costs hospitals big bucks.

Patient-centered care

The most important cultural attribute to physicians, according to the study, is a patient-centered care focus. And believe it or not, it had one of the smallest gaps between what physicians expected and how well they believed their organizations addressed it. However, there’s still a big gap between physician satisfaction with their organizations’ efforts in this area and the ideal. In other words, hospitals are making progress in achieving a focused patient-centered care approach but they still have more work to do.

Other cultural attributes that ranked high for physicians are:

  • respectful communication
  • team-focused environment, and
  • supportive management regarding errors and mistakes.

While the following attributes were also valued by physicians in the study, they weren’t ranked as a lower priority, they include:

  • clear mission and values, and
  • objective performance evaluations.

The cultural attributes that had the biggest gaps between what physicians considered important and what they believed their organization was delivering included:

  • transparent communication
  • collaborative leadership style, and
  • organizational adaption to change.

So by focusing on what physicians value most in cultural attributes and periodically surveying your docs to see how you’re doing, you can save your hospital a lot of money by keeping your current docs happy.

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