5 Best Principles for Physician Engagement at Hospitals

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At the Becker's Hospital Review Annual Meeting in Chicago on May 10, 2013, a panel including Vice President of Truven Health Analytics Linda MacCracken, Vice President of Physician Relations and Network Development at Advocate Health Care Joanne Detch and President of Sage Health Strategy Elyse Forkash Cutler gave a presentation titled "Top Performing Provider — Physician Engagement Best Practices and Great Ideas."

Advocate Health Care has a unique system to integrate physicians and several have become part of an accountable care organization. Physicians aligned with the hospital are able to provide coordinated care and can improve hospital processes with their input.

"Physicians are a huge part of the culture within our organization," said Ms. Detch. "They are leaders with the government roles and our whole platform is built on that goal: to have a strong provider/physician foundation. Physicians care incented through the clinical integration program and they must meet specific measures and metrics. Transparency of results are very important for physicians to look at one another and discuss the best practices."

Ms. MacCracken discussed how alignment strategies worked in the top hospitals named by Truven Health Analytics. "Top performing CEOs collaborate with key stakeholders and plan for shifts in the marketplace," she said. "Figure out where you see yourselves headed and in working with the top performers you can take that information to them. Co-led delivery models create a sustainable strategy for development."

There is a trend toward more physicians taking interest in leadership positions to impact hospital strategy. Ms. Forkash Cutler described five best practices for physician engagement at hospitals:

1. Assessment. Think about what physicians in the organization you'd like to focus on as leaders. The hospital doesn't have the time or resources to focus on every department or every physician, so really sit down and look at how your relationship with the physicians is changing. "Make simple assumptions about who you care most about," said Ms. Forkash Cutler.

2. Prioritize.
Figure out what issues are most important and focus on improvement in those areas. "Build a big spread sheet with quantitative indicators and make that data user-friendly so you can see where it makes most sense to focus," said Ms. Forkash Cutler.

3. Incent
. Incentivize alignment among the physicians. "Employed physicians are highly aligned, but with the right incentives the independent physicians can be more aligned as well," said Ms. Forkash Cutler. "Have shared savings programs."

4. Align messaging.
Over-communicate with all members of the team to make your message aligned. "You see some teams going to the physician and they don't get the bottom line of what you are asking them to do," said Ms. Forkash Cutler. "Don't talk around the issue; be very direct."

5. Transparency.
Maintaining transparency is a great way to promote alignment and get data out to improve performance. "Collect information reported over time and figure out what different hospitals in the system are doing better than others," said Ms. Forkash Cutler. "Create healthy competition. Transparency along with goal setting can be best."

More Articles on Hospital Partnerships:

4 Features to Flaunt to Attract an Acquirer
How to Choose Partnership Options, Involvement Levels
10 Necessary Points for a Due Diligence Checklist

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