Physician Engagement Cuts Costs & Increases Outcomes

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According to the Journal of Patient Safety, preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer. More than 10,000 medical complications are due to errors and cost the U.S. an estimated $1 trillion. Approximately half of the $2.9 trillion spent annually in healthcare expenditures could be eliminated by reducing waste through increased physician engagement. Physicians determine 75 to 85% of the decisions that drive quality and cost. According to Gallup, physicians that were in the top quartile for engagement increased outpatient volume by 17.5%, meanwhile disengaged physicians in the bottom quartile decreased their outpatient volume by 11.7%.

Physicians are significantly impacted by the changes occurring in the healthcare industry, and the doctors do not view these modifications positively. Physicians will only adopt practices to improve physician engagement if they see value in it. Doctors must be able to trust and rely on their hospital and expect that the hospital will support the delivery of quality patient care. The following are some principles that motivate and drive people to change:

  1. Discover a common purpose.  Primary focus must be on the care of the patient
  2. Reframe Values and Beliefs.  Physicians should be treated as partners with the hospital, not customers. Physicians must be accountable for quality
  3. Segment the engagement plan.  Do not overlook physicians who may not have a senior title. Show the physicians evidence and be transparent about the data because they have the ability to influence change.
  4. Provide support and education.  Project management skills need to be developed. Physicians do not work well in an environment where there is a lack of understanding about the strategy and the purpose of the initiative.
  5. Engage the physician's intellect. Help the physicians understand why the changes are taking place. Show how the physicians fit in the process and why they are essential to the initiative's success.
  6. Use "engaging" improvement methods. It needs to be clear what will be standardized. All protocols that are changed need to be done in a transparent manner.
  7. Build trust Communicate often and candidly. Address concerns and issues in a timely manner.
  8. Show courage. Physicians do not want to change when there is a doubt of commitment about the support of senior management or a lack of proper resources.
  9. Adopt an engaging style. Physicians want to be involved from the beginning, so ask them how patient care could be improved. Make sure messages are delivered sensitively and carefully. Make physician involvement apparent. Value the physicians' time different from others in the hospitals.

Make physicians the end goal to the delivery of better care for patients. Identify the leaders and equip them with the right tools, education and resources. Lastly, make sure there is trust to drive long-term, sustainable change.

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