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By John Gonda
Physician burnout is on the rise.
Across the country, a physician’s ability to practice medicine and care for patients is increasingly impacted by ongoing regulations and administrative requirements. As physician burnout increases, patient care and volumes are negatively impacted, which then affects revenue, reputation and experience.
Having a consistent physician engagement and communications strategy helps to mitigate the levels of burnout and dissatisfaction within an organization and increases the emotional connection between a health system/medical group and its providers.
Throughout the health industry, physician engagement is widely recognized as a key measurement of the commitment and professional satisfaction of a medical staff. Typically, physician engagement is directly impacted by three main areas: organizational administration, physician/medical group culture, and physician leadership.
Establishing a consistent physician engagement and communications strategy helps organizations create trusted relationships between physicians and their administrative and clinical leadership. These positive relationships have been proven industry-wide to increase physician referrals and productivity and positive impact retention rates.
An investment in a physician engagement program will also likely accomplish a better ROI than traditional consumer-facing mass media marketing efforts and is expected to have a longer lifespan of reach, frequency, and awareness among target audiences.
A highly engaged physician equates to quality patient care, lower costs, increased efficiency and improved patient safety. Perhaps just as important, physician engagement strategies have also been shown to deliver higher levels of physician satisfaction, impacting employment retention/recruitment rates.
Gallup surveys have reported an estimated 26 percent increase in productivity for engaged physicians over disengaged physicians. For health systems and medical groups that typically operate on extremely tight operational margins, this is an area too important to be ignored.
According to Advisory Board research, one significant cause of physician disconnect is centered around group decision-making and conflict with administrative decisions.
Maintaining positive physician engagement requires creating the right balance between making quick, centralized decisions and taking the time to effectively build broad levels of physician support and buy-in, while consistently communicating “the why” to those affected.
According to Doug Apple, MD, Chief Clinical Officer – Atlantic Group, Bon Secours Mercy Health, communicating ‘the why’ is one of the most vital aspects of developing true engagement.
“I have had physicians tell me that it wasn’t so much that a decision was made, but rather it was the understanding as to how administrative decisions are being made,” said Dr. Apple.
“Increasing satisfaction can be a challenge, but communicating and being transparent is a big part of successfully focusing and partnering together. The reality is that people just want to understand,” he added.
Beyond just understanding, the ultimate goal of physician engagement initiatives is to show an increase in reported levels of engagement and satisfaction from physicians, which leads to increased support of system initiatives and, ultimately, increased referrals.
To have successful engagement, it is important to develop tactics that deliver noticeably clear and efficient two-way communication channels with physicians, while building trust and respect.
Possible tactics to consider, include:
• Create department-specific physician focus groups
• Email medical staff surveys (starting with employed physicians)
• Implement physician email guidelines to help prioritize internal communications
• Develop physician advisory board
• Produce monthly physician leadership blogs and video messages
• Launch a mobile physician communications site (i.e. a one stop shot for all communications)
True engagement welcomes and involves physicians in developing a shared vision for the organization, allowing them to become true partners in solving challenges and celebrating success.
Engaged physicians are front-facing brand ambassadors. Through mutual respect and transparent communications, engagement will begin to naturally evolve. Simply put, physician engagement strategies are vital for a health system’s success.
About John Gonda
John is a Sr. Healthcare Account Manager with ddm marketing + communications in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has more than 22 years of experience in the healthcare industry, providing communications leadership for academic, community, public and faith-based health systems throughout the country. In addition, he has worked closely with physicians and medical groups to develop integrated marketing strategies and physician engagement programs.