Addressing Physician Engagement

John Commins, January 23, 2014

In our September Intelligence Report, healthcare leaders, by far, cited physician engagement as the most difficult aspect of managing physicians. What elements of physician engagement have been most challenging at your organization and how is leadership addressing it?


Chris Van Gorder
Scripps Health, San Diego, CA

On engagement and culture: Engagement has not been an issue for us. Maybe it is because we have a physician leadership cabinet that we established 14 years ago where all of our elected chiefs and vice chiefs meet with us monthly to work on all the issues affecting the healthcare system. We established our ScrippsCare accountable care organization and brought all of our independent practice associations and medical group physicians together several years ago and they are extraordinarily engaged.

On expanding engagement: Technically the physician leadership cabinet is an advisory body but I would argue that it is the second most powerful organization at Scripps, second only to the board of trustees. And that was easy. That was just bringing them in and transparently sharing information. We did the same thing with our affiliated medical groups through what we call the physician leadership academy.

On trust and authority: Engagement is not just a word. You have to give physicians decision-making authority. If they have the same information, they make the same decisions we would have made but they make it faster. I feel better about the decisions in the end because I know that the clinical needs of the patients are being met. They aren't just business decisions being made. They are joint decisions. I am not going to abdicate my role as CEO but I am willing to share it with them. If you are not willing to share it then engagement is really going to be difficult.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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