Healthcare News & Insights

3 keys to boosting physician engagement

Although many hospitals are focusing on how to improve patient engagement, facilities are also having trouble keeping doctors engaged in patient care. A lack of physician engagement can have negative effects on patient outcomes, so it can’t be ignored. 

ThinkstockPhotos-523114549To solve this problem, the best approach is to go straight to the source: doctors.

Dr. Richard Gunderman, a professor of medicine at Indiana University, talked to a group of students who are experienced practicing doctors earning MBAs in the business of medicine.

Dr. Gunderman asked these medical professionals about the best ways to improve physician engagement at hospitals, and he detailed their responses in a post published both on The Health Care Blog and KevinMD.com.

Issues hurting engagement

First, the doctors identified what they saw as the biggest obstacles to physician engagement, namely:

  • Lack of transparency. Hospitals have access to many sources of information about clinicians’ performance, from patient feedback to federal analyses. But they rarely share any details with doctors about how that data drives decision making. Physicians feel particularly alienated by the fact this information about their performance is widely circulated, yet they hear little about how the hospital as a whole measures up.
  • Lack of knowledge about patient care. Many hospital executives aren’t directly involved in caring for patients. And even if they’ve done so in the past, they haven’t been hands-on with patients in a while. This creates a divide between practicing physicians and administrators, particularly when decisions are made that affect how doctors treat patients.
  • Different criteria for evaluating success. While hospital executives are usually judged based on how well a facility does financially, doctors are judged based on the quality of care they provide. Although initiatives such as value-based payments are closing that gap, many physicians still feel that administrators focus more on finances than they do patients. And on the flip side, executives often feel doctors aren’t considering the full picture of the challenges that hospitals face in the current healthcare climate.
  • Policy over patients. One big concern doctors had was that building relationships with patients is taking a back seat to more impersonal policies and procedures. Doctors feel they’re losing connections with patients because health systems’ priorities have shifted. The additional administrative burdens created by the use of electronic health records (EHR) systems have contributed to this feeling.

How to improve

After airing their concerns, the doctors offered three suggestions for areas where hospital executives and board members can boost physician engagement:

  1. Treat physicians as partners. Decision makers can help physicians feel like they’re stakeholders in a hospital’s success by making sure doctors, nurses and other clinical staff are represented at meetings and brainstorming sessions. That way, executives can get feedback from clinicians about any pending initiatives – and whether they’re beneficial to patient care.
  2. Add practicing doctors to the board. Not only should physicians be represented when creating new policies and initiatives, someone who’s on the front lines of patient care should be present when all types of decisions are made that affect the day-to-day work of doctors.
  3. Try the “buddy system.” To get doctors and administrators on the same page, it may help to pair each executive with a physician “buddy” outside of board and committee meetings so they can understand what doctors deal with during their shifts. Doctors can also get insight into what drives hospital executives to make certain decisions. This can help them better relate to each other, which boosts engagement and awareness from both sides.

These strategies can go a long way toward increasing physician engagement, and it may be worth the effort to give them a try.

Ultimately, improving your doctors’ attitudes about their jobs has a positive impact on patient outcomes – which has a significant effect on your bottom line.

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