Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tip 6: How physicians are improving patient value

Recap of last week:

If you didn't happen to see last weeks interview with the editor of iProtean, she asked me to connect the dots between the current physician shortage and the challenging issue of physician leadership. I shared that my experience working with hospital communities across the country quickly made it clear that the related causes of the shortage are manageable at the "front line" level, and are acutely related to the need for Physician Leaders.

I don't know how you would react, but when I saw the graphic of The Hulk dressed in scrubs at the top of a recent Bloomberg article, "Doctors Without Boundaries," I didn't see it as much of an exaggeration. Everyone from Bloomberg to JD Powers (article: Patient Satisfaction Influenced More by Hospital Staff than by the Hospital Facilities) is writing about how human factors are the biggest influence on patient satisfaction and care.  All of these articles and studies are simply highlighting the symptoms of a widespread problem. Over the years, my experience with client hospital systems has helped me to uncover the single root cause of the problem: a deficit in physician leadership, and more importantly, a working definition of what being a physician leader means.

The last few months I've been sharing tips that have direct implications for how to design a collaborative leadership infrastructure with physicians, and the costly issues associated with this challenge. Business as usual (relying on the traditional carrot and sticks approach to improved physician involvement), isn't getting us anywhere. We need a more sustainable, solution oriented approach to the problem.  And we need to understand how to get our biggest influencers, physicians, to lead the way to improving patient care.

Tip 6: 
I hear from many organizations investing in a variety of physician leadership programs that aren't producing results. Not because their approaches are ineffective, but because they lack relevancy for most physicians. To achieve relevancy and engagement, you must clearly illustrate that the sole purpose of physician leadership is to generate patient value. When you frame physician leadership as the single most important effective way to increase patient value, your physicians will listen. And along with connecting physician leadership to patient care, when you further (and simply) define physician leadership as coaching, buy-in becomes almost immediate. Let me explain.

First, let's accept that all roads lead to Rome. All of the challenges you face: the prospects of a physician shortage, recruiting and retaining talent, creating a safe culture, improving patient experience, poor alignment, disruptive behavior, lack of physician engagement and accountability... they all share a common denominator/root cause, and that's the need for a physician coaching culture. Notice that I'm substituting coaching for leadership. Engaging your physicians in a coaching role is not only a practical, relevant approach to leadership, it offers a more definitive and actionable expectation of how we can improve team performance and generate real value for the patient. Feedback from physicians in my client hospitals tell me the "coaching" is much more tangible than "leadership," and tying the benefits of coaching to "What matters most to patients," seals the deal. If you'd like more clarity on the theme of coaching, check out some of our past issues where we provide road tested insights on physician's as coaches.

Secondly, most of your medical staff has different philosophies on leadership, it's purpose, objectives and expected outcomes. Take the time to identify the impact physician leadership (coaching) can have on improving the patient experience, satisfaction and quality. It's the only way to generate buy-in and sustained involvement from all your physicians. By beginning with a relevant definition, you're opening the door to designing a physician leadership culture that will most effectively improve patient care - and when physicians realize that, leadership will become a valuable aspiration that all of your physicians will seek to attain.

Feel free to join me on Facebook to further this conversation - I'd be happy to visit with you about how you'd see your organization implement a role description.

Visit the Patient Driven Leadership Site.

Congratulations to the Montana Hospital Associationstaff for a successful Patient Driven Leadership Champions for Quality Conference. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with many  physicians and clinical leaders that are working tirelessly to improve quality not only in their communities but throughout the state.

Billing's MT session video coming soon! For those of you who would like to learn more about our statewide Patient Driven Leadership program we will soon have the entire video uploaded to thanks to the Billing's Clinic for making this video production possible.

Visit the Coach+Leader Blog.

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