Provide Autonomy to Keep Physicians Engaged

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Since the Gallup survey on physician engagement came out in 2015, most if not all hospital administrators made themselves familiar with the information that was collected.  Since then, countless articles have been published highlighting the ways that healthcare organizations can keep their physicians engaged, yet, physician burnout and retention issues still exist, with more than 40% of physicians reporting that they are suffering from burnout.

In a subsequent survey, Jackson Physician Search conducted an engagement survey, using the same Gallup poll questions, but requested responses from both physicians and hospital administrators.  The results illustrated a clear difference between the physician experience of engagement drivers and the administration’s perception of the same.

In their own words, physicians value autonomy and want to be treated fairly and with respect. All three of these factors contribute to physician engagement, and all three are areas where physician perception differs from administrators’ perception. With that in mind, let’s review how physician engagement expectations can be met.

 

Place appropriate emphasis on culture and fit.

More than at any time prior, physicians want to work for an organization that is aligned with their own values.  Current physician shortages have created a very competitive physician recruitment environment, making it increasingly important to recruit and hire physicians who are a good fit for your organizational culture. If your organization does not have a recognizable or clearly defined culture, consider investing the time to find out. Further, it is important to recognize that an engaged physician staff are more productive and generates more revenue than physicians who are not engaged.

Ensure administrative actions are aligned with physician goals.

Physicians care about the patients they are serving.  When asked about the source of their frustration, many cite what they deem to be unreasonable expectations put upon them by executive decree.  There is always a reason why administrators place a goal or expectation on a physician, and usually, there is data to back it up. Where the gap materializes is that the data or reason behind an administrative action is not shared with the physician staff.  When physicians perceive that administrative actions are conflicting with their medical decision-making, any sense of autonomy is lost.  Transparency regarding goals and expectations facilitates physician buy-in and reduces unnecessary stress and burnout.

Cultivate an open environment for feedback and transparency.

The gap between physician perspective and that of administrators highlights the need for improved communication from the top down.  Physicians are trained problem-solvers, and when they are engaged, they can be invaluable in helping to solve organizational issues and other challenges in the workplace. Creating a culture of open and honest communication and feedback can ignite their problem-solving skills and lead to solutions that may be missed without a front-line perspective.

Implement a Physician Leadership development strategy.

In addition to being problem solvers, many physicians are natural leaders.  In a 2019 poll conducted by the Medical Group Management Association, 67% of respondents cited that no leadership coaching was provided to their clinicians. Admittedly, not every physician has the interpersonal skills to be an effective leader or executive.  But, there are many other ways that physicians can be developed to provide effective leadership to a slew of organization objectives. Those with demonstrated leadership skills and abilities should be groomed to take on future roles within the organization. Others, who exhibit different types of problem-solving or leadership skills can be trained to provide specific project-level leadership to help achieve organizational objectives. The key is to tap into each individual’s skill set to develop and nurture their innate skills and abilities.

Create a culture of support.

Too often, healthcare organizations develop a tendency to overreact to regulatory and qualitative burdens. No one will argue that raising the standards of care are important, but to the practicing physician, the regulatory burdens can be crushing.  All of the above recommendations should contribute to a recognized need for healthcare organizations to develop an environment where regulatory and qualitative burdens are met by a collaborative approach.  Together, administrators and physicians should communicate about a collective approach to achieving quality standards and meeting the increasing regulatory burden.

 

The roadmap to achieving physician engagement, while satisfying their desire for autonomy in patient care decisions is hardly different than in organizations across the employment spectrum. Physicians, like most working individuals, want to work in an environment where they are valued, have an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process, and are supported by leadership.

To learn more about how your healthcare organization can improve physician engagement and retention, contact an experienced Jackson Physician Search industry professional today.

 

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