A Seat at the Table: How Physician Advisory Councils Contribute to Hospital-Physician Alignment

In the Becker's Hospital Review 5th Annual Meeting in Chicago, Jerome Levine, MD, senior physician executive, consultant, Coors Healthcare Solutions and Phillip Wright, CEO of Santa Rosa Medical Center in Milton, Fla., discussed the importance of creating physician leadership and how physician advisory councils can go a long way in creating hospital-physician alignment that lasts.

Physician recruitment and retention are extremely important aspects of a successful healthcare organization, according to Dr. Levine. Physician expectations regarding their jobs has changed and leadership development is an important driver of physician alignment with a hospital

"Physicians are a hospital's partner and have to be involved in every aspect of the organization," said Dr. Levine. "How can an organization be successful if the physicians are not sitting at all the decision-making tables? Organizations have to help develop and create physician leadership."

A tried and tested way to create effective physician leadership at a hospital is the formation of a physician advisory council. A PAC is designed to give physicians a forum for transparent communication. It allows them to give CEOs direct input and feedback and gives them a seat at the table. "Early discussion of initiatives and ideas with physicians through the PAC also creates alignment with an organization's strategic goals," said Dr. Levine.

According to Mr. Wright, whose hospital has a PAC, it is a key aspect of hospital-physician partnership. Here are four steps for creating an effective PAC:

1. Selecting 12 to 15 physicians from different specialties — an equal mix of employed and independent physicians.
2. Organizing monthly dinner meetings with the PAC and hospital administration.
3. Appointing a physician leader to chair the council and run the meetings.
4. Setting meeting for the CEO and PAC chair 24 hours before the meeting.

It is important that the hospital administration follow up on the ideas and actions discussed at meetings with the PAC. "You will get physician participation, attention and commitment if they see action when they give you input," said Mr. Wright.

After the creation of the PAC at Santa Rosa Medical Center, there was a 10-point improvement in physician satisfaction. There have also been changes in equipment purchase guidance and the design of the emergency room as a result of PAC meetings

"It just goes to show, if you build it, they will come," said Dr. Levine.

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