Physicians are the ones anchoring the ship of healthcare in a sea of variables. Technological advancements are as they may, one cannot elude the touch and presence of a physician in healthcare. Everyone admits that healthcare needs to be fixed, but that would require a radical transformation where doctors would be the central players. Doctors have been known to approach their work with energy and enthusiasm and are responsible for at least 75% of all quality and cost-related decisions.
The Importance of Engaging Physicians
Lately, the term ‘physician engagement’ has been doing rounds in the healthcare system. A survey conducted a few years ago highlights the importance of engaged and empowered physicians: engaged physicians were found to be 26% more productive than the ones who were not. In terms of money, that accounts for about $460,000 inpatient revenue per physician per year. Besides increased productivity, here are some other reasons why physicians should be engaged:
- Moving towards value-based reimbursements: In the shift towards value-based care, it’s important to ensure proper delivery of care by physicians who are enthusiastic and concerned.
- Meeting the quality and efficiency targets: With engaged physicians on board, the hospitals will drive towards quality health care by reducing complications and countering inefficiencies.
- Persistent physician burnouts: A report states that 54.4% of physicians in the country have at least one symptom of burnout, and their satisfaction has decreased from 48.5% to 40.9% within four years. Engaging physicians is a way of tackling their burnout by changing how care is delivered.
Challenges in Physician Engagement
Physician engagement is nothing new and has been a strategic priority for providers, and according to a survey, the C-suite classified it to be the one of the fundamental and sustainable changes that need to be made quickly. Even as we work towards putting physicians on the front lines of care delivery, there are many roadblocks:
- Rigid priorities: The healthcare system has always been focused more on patient satisfaction and service and less on physician engagement. This framework is changing, but the system has gone rigid over the years.
- Restricted and poor understanding: physicians feel burdened with new regulatory changes coming up every day and often, overlook how their dissatisfaction and burnout add to the inefficiency of the system.
- Uncertainties: There are many variables and unknowns; and with new regulations, payment models and looming misconceptions, physicians find themselves struggling without any guidance.
- Misunderstood drivers: The organizations believe that compensation is one of the primary driving factors for physicians and constantly overlook other factors such as satisfaction, stress, and exhaustion.
Improving Physician Engagement
Physician experience is significant to develop a sense of connectedness and value among physicians, along with improvements in quality and reduction in costs. There huge loopholes present and bringing about this change at every level is not an easy task, but an effective framework can help bridge this divide.
- Addressing physicians’ problems: According to a report, quite a good number of physicians have a poor knowledge of health reform changes. Therefore, proactive solutions must be provided to their queries.
- Promoting effective communication: There should be an as little gap as possible between physicians and organization administrators. Physicians should be assured that their thoughts, suggestions, and initiatives are being heard.
- Effective incentives and compensation models: Incentives and compensation models are becoming increasingly important as factors for motivating physicians to work toward effective and quality healthcare delivery. Although important, they should not be the primary factors.
- Making physicians into leaders: Physicians should be encouraged to voice their opinions and develop means to involve them in decision-making and strategic organizational planning, and making them realize the opportunities and choices they have over their work.
- Using data analytics: The healthcare industry has realized the potential of data analytics, and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Advancing physician engagement is one of the many things data analytics can be used for:
1. Driving improvements in a calculated and analyzed manner.
2. Monitoring their decisions in real-time and see the effects
3. Narrowing down on the inefficiencies and errors in the system.
4. Accurate analysis of a patient’s health and reduce readmissions.
5. Cutting down on avoidable expenses.
The Road Ahead
The merits of strong physician engagement are being realized gradually over the times and it is now considered as an important way to improve quality and achieve better health outcomes. A completely engaged physician works with value and ethics and has the dedicated aim to improve patient care. According to a report, with every one percent increase in physician engagement, the HCAHPS ratings of a hospital increase by 0.33%. It’s important that physicians spend time with their patients, getting to know them and their medical history and going the traditional way of curing, assisted by technology. An effective and transparent communication between patients and doctors would not only ensure quality care but also be a way to engage patients, which is equally important.
It’s a long journey to the goal of creating strong, engaged physician workforce, dotted with challenges. But no one except physicians has the know-how to wield the expertise and knowledge needed to improve efficiency, deliver better health outcomes, improve patient experience and achieve value-based care.
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