Six Pieces of Advice when Evaluating and Choosing a Partner for Measuring and Improving Physician Engagement

Physicians are an influential and main component in the healthcare organizations in which they practice. They are central to the management of patient care and therefore the overall experience. They also contribute to the organization’s quality metrics, finances, and culture. In many of PRC’s National Consumer Studies, a #1 or #2 top influencer for where a patient ultimately chooses to receive care was the physician’s recommendation. Undoubtedly, physicians are a key component of an organization’s success.

Because of the focus on CAHPS and public reporting of the patient experience, it is essential to seek out physician viewpoints. Afterall, they are a critical internal customer to the organization.

But who do you turn to in order to obtain this feedback? What are the most important factors to evaluate when choosing a research partner? Here are six things that healthcare organizations should consider when choosing a survey company to measure physician experience.

1. Participation Rates – Ask the organization about their typical and average participation rate statistics. Obtaining a healthy participation rate is important to obtaining a good understanding of physician engagement to your organization. High participations rates are very probable with the right organization. A strong partner provides a full representation of your medical staff, meaning not just responses from physicians who are most engaged, or those that are already vocal at meetings and with the administrator. A good organization obtains a participation rate of close to 80%. If this level isn’t achieved, then the busiest physicians are omitted from the data, and potentially those physicians who are splitting their business with your competitors.

2. Flexibility – Ensure that you have a partner who is flexible in how feedback is collected. From phone and web options, to multiple follow up invites, you want a partner who offers flexibility to get participation rates as high as possible. An organization who is innovative enough to remove physicians who have completed the survey from future invitations is key, as well as one that will keep you abreast of physicians and specialty groups that haven’t completed it, so you may encourage participation in the areas needed.

3. Customer Service, Consultation, & Education – You’ll want to make sure your partner is able to provide you with the level of service and attention you deserve and that they are listening to you and the issues you are facing as an organization. Is the solution being designed to meet your objectives? Make sure your partner can present the data and educate you on how to use the data to make meaningful improvement in the eyes of your physicians.

4. Reporting & Analysis – What is provided in terms of reporting, and how easy is it to understand? Are you able to get a meaningful level of analysis? Can the results be broken down to the specialty level, especially if a low participation is realized. Is data broken down by physician type—employed, contracted, independent? Can it be broken down by advanced practitioners versus physicians, or by physicians that practice regularly versus community-based physicians? Key drivers or a list of priority items should be provided in terms of what the organization should focus on to have the biggest impact on physician engagement.

5. Experience – Physicians can be very critical of surveys for many reasons, notably their belief that their time is too valuable to be spent on surveys. Typically, you only have one shot at a successful study with physicians because if you mess it up, you won’t get another opportunity to get their opinions. Make sure the organization you choose is one that is experienced and will provide the valuable results you’re looking for.

6. Actionable Measures with Clear Owners for Improvement – Make sure the study will produce data that is actionable. Measuring things that are tangible and capturing these in ways that have clear owners for who will manage improvement efforts after the study is completed is key. If only general ideas and goals, such as communication, trust, and quality, are measured you’ll end up with unfocused priorities for everyone. Better communication, building trust and improving quality are all necessary and important, but measuring specific operational areas where these things are needed will also help prioritize those areas. By focusing on specific operational areas, you can then hold specific leaders in these specific areas accountable to improvement.

Focusing on these six items can help you to partner with an organization that matches the most important areas when it comes to working with your physicians. Hospitals should be getting the biggest bang for their buck and knowing how the organization measures up in these six key areas can help your organization choose the best partner for your efforts in improving physician engagement.