Top Four Ways to Improve Physician Engagement

Physician burnout is on the rise.


Regulatory red tape, concerns about reimbursement, and the sheer amount of paperwork and data entry required to get through any given day have taken a toll on physicians. In one survey of 400 physicians, most respondents (89 percent) said the “business and regulation of healthcare” has changed the practice of medicine for the worse. A whopping 96 percent of physicians said they have personally witnessed or experienced the negative impacts of physician burnout, and 80 percent said they are personally at risk for burnout at some point in their career.1 

The situation is a difficult reality for American hospitals and health systems to face, especially when actively engaged physicians can reap impressive results:2 

  • Engaged physicians are 26% more productive. 
  • They deliver an average $460,000 increase in patient revenue per physician, per year. 
  • They also refer more patients—3% more outpatient and 51% more inpatient referrals. 

Hospitals that witness a performance gain of greater than one percent or more in both communication with nurses and employee engagement experience an average performance gain of six points in overall hospital rating (HCAHPS scores). A five-point increase in hospital rating is associated with a 1% increase in profit margin.3 

And as we discussed in our recent white paper, healthcare organizations must have an engaged clinical workforce to become high reliability organizations, where patient care is consistently excellent and safe across all services and settings, and zero harm is the ultimate goal.4 

So, what steps can health systems take to increase physician engagement?  

The key is to take a team approach. Successful physician engagement initiatives involve more than just healthcare providers. They encompass every aspect of a health system’s operational infrastructure, from scheduling, to intake, and even the outsourced services contributing to patient or employee experience. To facilitate engagement: 

ONE: Enhance the Patient Experience 

  • For engaged physicians, patients come first. 
  • Basic medical and support services must be readily available and contribute to a positive patient and physician environment and experience.  
  • Core daily operations—scheduling, pre-authorization, intake, coordination of care, billing, discharge—must run smoothly and without interruption. If your outsourced valet parking service isn’t prompt, the discharge process may be delayed while caregivers wait with patients. This wastes the discharge staff’s time and frustrates patients and their families.  
  • Conduct patient satisfaction surveys and analyze the patient experience to identify inefficiencies and sources of dissatisfaction. 

TWO: The Team Comes First 

  • Physicians are more likely to engage across your entire organization if they feel connected to a satisfied and effective workforce. 
  • Both physicians and nurses must actively contribute to a collaborative, team-oriented environment where their skills and opinions are valued.  
  • The first step toward instilling this collaborative culture is to engage the nursing department. When nurses are more engaged, physicians will follow. Start by providing nursing staff, resources, and services to identify and reduce frictions in the delivery of patient care. 

THREE: Instill a Culture of Trust 

  • For engaged physicians, professional pride often supersedes institutional loyalty. 
  • Providers don’t want to refer a patient to a colleague who has a reputation for delivering less than satisfactory care or patient experiences. 
  • Monitoring provider performance and patient complaints and taking corrective action are essential to establishing the culture of trust required to engage physicians across the health system. 

FOUR: Administrate with Care 

  • When in doubt, physicians examine the evidence. To establish trust with caregivers, administrators must provide evidence that patients are receiving excellent clinical care … and experiences. 
  • All too often, hospital administrators try the top-down approach, identifying key physician stakeholders they feel could help engage colleagues as a whole. 
  • Such approaches to physician engagement are disingenuous and rarely successful. 
  • A more measured and subtle approach begins at the bottom, building the infrastructure, services, and culture in which the priorities of physicians and hospital administrative are naturally aligned, and where caregivers feel empowered to proactively address issues. 

By following these four steps, you can increase physician engagement and improve patient care and satisfaction. Better engaged, more productive physicians will have a positive impact on your bottom line.  







Staff Writer

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