This is the first question hospital and system leaders who are struggling with physician satisfaction and engagement need to ask themselves. Really, honestly, what is your relationship…today?
And, you need to respond with more than a simple “it’s bad” or “we do great” kind of answer. You need to do more than quote annual survey results. If you believe it is important, then you need to understand it deeply. If money were disappearing from your books, you would investigate, audit, and scrutinize your accounting. You certainly wouldn’t accept vagaries or wait for the results of an annual survey!
Question 2: What do you need your relationship with physicians to be? In other words, to deliver quality care, build an effective culture, and produce strong, bottom-line results, what does your relationship with your physicians need to look like? How do you satisfy them and the needs of the hospital or system simultaneously? Your relationships are either a bottleneck or a gateway to your performance. They are a part of everything you do.
Question 3: What do you want your relationship with physicians to be? As a leader, you can choose to invest in relationships that are transactional and fulfill the basic requirements of your hospital or system. Or, you can invest in relationships that will help you build your hospital or system, engaging and leveraging physicians as key partners, influencers, and leaders in the work. You have to start with what you actually want.
Question 4: What are you willing to invest, change? Everybody talks about physician satisfaction and engagement and how important they are to hospital performance and patient outcomes. Yet, few leaders systematically and strategically invest in them as core processes of the organization. It’s not just about physician support FTEs or whether or not physicians can text you their complaints in the middle of the night, but about philosophy and approach. It’s about investing in strong physician relationships as fundamental to how you do business.
How you answer these questions will in part determine how physicians will respond to you: “When physician engagement and satisfaction are both high, physicians act as “dedicated partners,” when only engagement is high they act as “discontented colleagues,” when only satisfaction is high they act as “satisfied spectators,” and when both engagement and satisfaction are low they act as “distanced patrons” (Press Ganey).
Which are your physicians?