1. What do you need physicians to know?
This is about business strategy. For you to lead a safe, productive, successful hospital, what do your physicians need to know from you, or about the hospital more generally? What information is going to help align and engage physicians with the vision and direction of your hospital? What will make the hospital safer, with healthier and happier patients? When you think about hospital – physician communication, this question is fundamental.
2. What do physicians want to know?
Knowing what physicians want to know and delivering it is crucial to physician engagement. It’s about professional respect. Do physicians care about hearing from the CEO or CMO? Do they want updates on policy changes and healthcare reform? Do they care about overall performance of the hospital? Are they looking for CME opportunities? Strategic internal communication has to be two-way and engage the wants and needs of both hospitals and physicians.
3. What do physicians want/need you to know?
To reiterate, communication is two-way, not just in the nature and value of the content exchanged but also in who gets to initiate it. It’s about listening as much as it is about talking, posting, sending, and faxing. So, at your hospital, who gets to share information? Request information? Seek/give feedback? Report on or provide updates on hospital successes? Challenges? Who listens? Physicians need avenues to communicate with hospital leadership, to know they have been heard, and to know it matters. If they are going to engage in the vision and mission of your hospital, then they have to have a role in leading it.
4. What are you willing to change?
Poor communication leads to low physician engagement. Low engagement creates communication problems. So, something has to change. What is it? What are you willing to stop that you know isn’t working? What are you wasting time, energy, and money on (ex: email newsletters with 15 pdf attachments, faxes, posters in the lounge)? What workflows need to be evaluated? What roles and expectations must change for physician support staff? For hospital executives? For physicians? Communication both creates and is a function of staffing and workflow models. So, if you want to change communication, then you must be willing to change these. Another new channel, new FTE, or new piece of technology on top of the same old practices simply won’t do it.
5. Why does it matter?
If you are going to invest in change and expend your leadership capital to do so, you need a plan to articulate and promote “why” and then capture and report on the results. Can you reduce the volume of emails to a physician? Can you eliminate technologies or practices you know aren’t working anyway? Can you reduce physician stress or frustration? Can you create new feedback channels? Can you increase physicians’ sense of connection and engagement with your hospital? Communication impacts everything you do. So, pick short-term metrics that you and your physicians value and strategically align your communication change efforts to improve them. In the mid and long terms, you can then track lagging metrics like reduced turnover, increased engagement, higher productivity, increased safety and the like.