5 Keys for Physician Engagement

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At the Becker's Hospital Review 4th Annual Meeting in Chicago on May 9, Randy Oostra, DM, FACHE, president and CEO of Toledo, Ohio-based ProMedica, shared tips for hospitals and health systems to achieve physician engagement.

ProMedica has stellar physician satisfaction scores – in the 85th national percentile in 2012 – but that was not always the case. About 10 years ago, ProMedica terminated an HMO contract with a large independent physician association, which, in Mr. Oostra's words, resulted in "World War three, four and five," between the system and physicians in the market. "There was anger, hostility…votes of no confidence," Mr. Oostra said. "It was pretty ugly."

So how did ProMedica recover and improve its physician engagement? Mr. Oostra shared the five keys to physician engagement that got ProMedica to the physician satisfaction and engagement scores it has today.

Belong

The first key to physician engagement is to get them to feel like they belong in the organization. At ProMedica, Mr. Oostra said the process starts with recruitment. "We start to set the stage we recruit, retain and onboard them," he said. Other large parts of fostering physician belonging is getting them involved in governance and management roles. Additionally, Mr. Oostra encouraged hospital and health system executives to make social connections with physicians and have periodic one-on-one meetings with them.

Believe

Once physicians belong in a hospital or health system, they must start believing in it and its mission, vision, values and culture. "It's easy to gloss over [things] with doctors and think they're not interested," Mr. Oostra said, but he has not found that to be the case. He encouraged hospital and health system leaders to engage physicians in the organization's culture through a physician leadership council. Additionally, recognizing physicians for their work and dedication to clinical excellence is also an important part of the "Believe" key. "Recognition is incredibly important," Mr. Oostra emphasized. ProMedica hosts a banquet for its employed physicians, which Mr. Oostra said has been a big success.

Behold

This key is where physicians connect the dots, according to Mr. Oostra, where physicians begin to understand the importance of IT and care navigation.

Bloom

"This is where they take off," Mr. Oostra said. Physician leadership development is a big part of this stage, as is placing physicians in senior executive positions. ProMedica has physicians in high leadership roles and "they've been doing very, very well," Mr. Oostra said. Additionally, hospitals and health systems should encourage physician philanthropy and active physician participation in care and cost transformation as part of the "Bloom" stage.

Blaze

The last key, "Blaze," is when physicians begin leading change, driving population health and driving integration.

While the keys were presented in this order, Mr. Oostra emphasized that this is not a linear structure. "Do all of this in whatever shape or form works for you."

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