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Physician engagement is key to clinical and financial performance.
Handling more than 1 billion patient encounters per year, America’s 1+ million physicians are the foundation and primary economic drivers of U.S. health care. To give an idea of physicians’ impact, the average full-time physician creates nearly $2.4 million in hospital revenue per year, according to a recent survey. The significance of physicians to their health care organizations cannot be overstated.
However, the critical role and contributions of physicians is often portrayed differently in the daily news – or by physicians themselves. Despite an abundance of positive physician stories, the media tend to focus on “bad apple” doctors gaming the health care system, overprescribing or being arrested. More critically, America’s physicians are wearing out. In a recent Harvard report on physician burnout, calling it a “public health crisis that urgently demands action,” half of all physicians report depression, exhaustion, dissatisfaction and a sense of failure.
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Much of physicians’ frustration stems from dealing with a changing health care system seemingly beyond their individual control. For example, due to payers’ reimbursement cuts, physicians must now see more patients to maintain prior earning levels, potentially fraying traditional physician/patient interactions. Similarly, physicians no longer have as much latitude in their medical decisions, with the growth of evidence-based protocols, utilization management, and formularies. Contextually, this is why, more than ever, health care systems employing or contracting with physicians need to proactively enhance their physician engagement – or risk losing their doctors to more physician-centric competitors.
Why is physician engagement so important? It creates more positive, stable relationships between health care organizations and their physicians. It also correlates with greater efficiency and productivity, improved patient care and safety, and lower operational costs.
Consider the results of a Gallup study of a hospital system in which physicians rated “fully engaged” and “engaged” delivered an average of 51% more inpatient referrals and 3% more outpatient referrals than counterparts rated “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” Financially, the most engaged physicians were 26% more productive than those less-engaged, adding an average $460,000 in additional patient revenue per year.
Improving Physician Engagement
Achieving high levels of physician engagement can prove difficult for many health care organizations. So what is the roadmap for success? Consider the following 10 sequential steps to improve physician engagement.
Forward-looking health care organizations realize that physician engagement is key to their clinical and financial performance. At a time when physicians are feeling bombarded by economic and operational changes in health care seemingly beyond their control, and under greater personal pressure to heighten performance, ongoing organizational support and engagement can make a critical difference to their success.