One of the hard lessons in healthcare is learning to accept the things you cannot change, while simultaneously pouring incredible amounts of effort into making the changes you’re able. Physicians can change a patient’s health status, but not how long it takes to complete the documentation to reflect it. CMOs can change how the organization involves physicians in strategic and operational decisions, but not how consumers want or expect healthcare to be delivered. These paradigms cumulate as a challenge to strengthen physician engagement, confronting thousands of healthcare leaders as engagement declines nation-wide in hospitals of all types and sizes.
Physician Health Status
In a world where nearly three in every four physicians do not recommend their career and many more seek early retirement, physician engagement has become increasingly critical to maintaining the working population of healthcare providers. Unfortunately, cultivating a loyal medical staff who is invested in the hospital’s mission is trickier than it sounds. As any leader will tell you, “engagement” isn’t an actionable noun—people either feel it or they don’t. What can be done to control yet another seemingly uncontrollable force in healthcare? Understand what exactly can be helped. PRC’s Physician Engagement Study does just that, sharing insights on the changes leadership can make for their team of physicians.
The Physician Engagement Study measures the ownership physicians feel in their hospitals. Put another way, this score gives value to how much agency physicians feel they have in their workplace. Knowing that a stronger sense of ownership within the organization leads to higher engagement, the Physician Engagement Study offers actionable drivers as solutions to areas where physicians feel they don’t have the input they’d like to see.
Physicians and Tech
But what can be done about how people feel? Consider EMRs and EHRs, which are often cited as factors driving low engagement. Unfortunately, many hospital leaders feel as though their hands are tied; regulations leave no choice but to rely on EMRs and EHRs. Most physicians are quick to complain about EHRs, citing them as cumbersome to their workflow, it’s tempting to say there’s nothing more to be done and that physicians simply must adapt. Telehealth offers new alternatives for patients but can add additional burden for physicians. Telehealth may act as a strong tool assistant, however, telehealth is reliant on the current technology. All it could take is bad weather power outage or the unplugging of the device to grind hospital’s gears.
While these new technologies are part of the reality of healthcare, there are often forgotten factors leadership can leverage to ease the difficulties medical staff experience with these systems and drive engagement. Does your hospital have adequate tech support, or is there one IT guy dashing from broken tablet to broken tablet all day? Ensuring that the resources are available to seamlessly assist with issues and provide training without long wait times removes a significant burden from the physician.
Engagement Productivity Culture
On a larger scale, in PRC’s research with more than 600 national healthcare organizations, the most common drivers of physician engagement are related to organizational culture. While EMRs and documentation requirements certainly play a role in decreasing physician satisfaction, these challenges exist at every American healthcare organization. Notably, organizations who successfully build cultures which promote collaboration, respect, and efficiency equip their physicians to not only manage these industry-wide challenges, but also provides resources to help design solutions—both of which strengthen engagement.
While true that company culture comes from everyone, remember that it starts at the top and flows down. Organizing teams across the hospital system so that everyone works well and communicates with each other does wonders for engagement. In any workplace, those who have positive relationships with their coworkers are more willing to help their teammates and pick up slack, fostering an environment which encourages even better communication and delivers higher outcomes. While it’s true that you cannot wave a magic wand and watch frustrations with EHRs disappear, an organization who puts significant effort into building relationships with providers, sees those frustrations softened into challenges to overcome together; as a unified organization.