Imagine a world of healthcare where every physician is engaged and contributing their full capacity. A world where physicians are happier because they feel listened to- a world where every physician is a leader.
Physicians are the lifeblood of healthcare organizations. Engaging them in leading transformation is critical. Many healthcare organizations do worry about alignment, but few take the time to establish an end- to- end strategy for developing physicians, let alone create an action plan for physician engagement. Much potential is lost without this commitment.
In a report by Deborah A. Paller called What the Doctor Ordered: The best hospitals create emotional bonds with their physicians, we learn:
Recent Gallup Organization studies of more than 6,000 physicians in the United States show that only 10% of physicians are fully engaged with their hospital, while 42% are actively disengaged. Although it’s intuitive that physicians who are engaged with a hospital would prefer to practice there, this assumption is proven by several case studies that demonstrate a clear linkage between physician engagement and referral patterns. The result is better financial performance at the hospitals where these physicians practice.
…physicians may also believe that their employers don’t often ask for their input, and when they do, they may note that they aren’t asked about programs and policies most important to them and that decisions still aren’t made with the proper context.
Our work at the Physician Leadership Institute (PLI) facilitates physician alignment and engagement, resulting in improved culture and performance. While the above statistics about physician engagement are troubling, they provide a map from which we can strategize a way forward.
PLI Strategy for Physician Alignment & Engagement
|1. Listen to your physicians||
Ask the right questions on an ongoing basis, and listen to understand. Thoughtful questions are crucial tools for ongoing assessment of engagement. Questions must be asked with physicians in mind as people, not just clinicians. To build trust in this dialogue, you must intend to give physicians a voice, listen to what is being said, and act upon it in a cycle of continuous improvement. Know their top concerns!
|2. Help physicians see the big picture||
Take time to explain the “why” behind initiatives, and describe what success looks like. The majority of the time, administrators spend too much time speaking to physicians about WHAT to change and not enough time providing the context of WHY change. Communicating the idea simply and clearly, like Dr. Martin Luther King’s messaging, is critical to success. For more info, read our work on the four steps to great leadership communication.
|3. Empower physicians with knowledge and skills||
Provide physicians with education in how to lead. Physicians need skill-building in how to address change and conflict in healthy and courageous ways. Other essential development includes strategies for identifying and preventing burnout, appreciative inquiry techniques, adaptability to change, and resilience. The Physician Leadership Institute can help you build these skills while applying the learning to real-world challenges. This experience and reciprocal trust-building is directly linked to increased physician satisfaction and engagement, improved organizational alignment, and improved quality and safety metrics.
|4. Identify and remove hassle factors||
Walk in their shoes. Physicians will bristle at what they perceive to be a lack of understanding by administrators regarding what their work is really like. Walk alongside your physicians. Round with them. Sit and talk to them, one on one. See and hear their challenges, firsthand. Have them identify their hassles and create plans to remove or neutralize them. Even removing one hassle or obstacle will build trust and goodwill. You can’t afford to not do this.
|5. Create opportunities for collaboration||
Actively engage physicians in your organizational strategy! Collaboration is a muscle that must be exercised. Create intentional projects for administrators and physicians to work on together. Ask physicians to lead in areas like the patient experience, readmissions, and reduction of outcome variations.
|6. Develop physicians as Change Agents for peer communication and influence||
Trust physicians to lead, and empower them to do so daily as your organization’s primary agents of change. In an expert culture, physicians value peer communication and accountability. Developing physician leaders from those in the trenches improves engagement and trust building. PLI trains and certifies physician change agents that Lead with Purpose, Lead with Strategy, Lead Others through Influence, Lead Self, and Lead for Results.
|7. Coach your physician leaders for success||
Providing coaching to support your physician leaders. Leadership is not taught in medical education and residency, and supporting your physician leaders through coaching is a proven strategy. Coaches increase physician self-awareness, effectiveness, and bridge the gap between ideas and execution to deliver results. PLI has an elite group of coaching professionals and a suite of evidence-based tools to serve in this capacity.
Alignment and engagement do not happen overnight! A deliberate strategy and practice will provide your turning point toward the transformation you seek, and it can be achieved through a strategic commitment to physician leadership development.
For more on the winning strategy for physician alignment and engagement, we invite you to ask us about what we have identified as the upcoming paradigm shifts in healthcare that will require ongoing strategies for alignment and engagement.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Together, let’s make engagement a habit.