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The Power of Plugged-In Physicians

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, May 25, 2012

Hospital and health system senior executives are continually searching for ways to engage their physician staff. Some are doing it through an employment strategy. Some are creating a variety of economic incentives for physicians to help them achieve the goal of fewer readmissions, meet quality targets, and agree on treatment protocols that fit evidence on cost and quality. They're working to educate physicians on the downstream effects of their decisions on the entire organization.


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Those are all valid and important initiatives to attempt in an industry hungry for transparency, cost control, and better quality. But to hear many CEOs speak, it's a tricky business to encourage physician engagement, and they search for the right combination of incentives to get the job done. They fail at their career peril.

I have found that most execs have trouble defining what exactly physician engagement or alignment really looks like.

Here's an idea: try to make it simple. By that I mean look for ways to empower physicians to change their own work patterns to make them more efficient both in time and cost. If you can engender that kind of work environment, the rest has a way of sorting itself out. The majority of successful physician engagement initiatives I've seen seem to share one quality: the absence of micromanagement. The executives are there to articulate goals, get the physicians the tools they say they need to accomplish those goals, and get out of the way.

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