One of the first challenges in wringing value from your employed physician group is to focus your discussions. In developing strategies for these groups, we’ve found paying attention to the nine issues below will yield big benefits:
- Do employed physicians understand the strategic direction of their group? Most likely not, unless they’ve been engaged in a process to jointly develop it with management. Ask them about their vision for the group in five years, what strategic opportunities they see and what will make the group attractive for physician recruits. Group leaders must help shape and drive the strategy, at least if you wish to make the group useful to achieving your objectives.
- Do the physicians understand reform and its implications for the group? A few do. Engaging them to define what they don’t understand and filling those gaps will aid your efforts to build a group that supports the organization’s mission and can effectively respond to an evolving environment. It will also help alleviate their fears.
- Are doctors getting the clinical and financial information they need? Armed with the right data, physicians can be more productive and efficient. However, we frequently talk with physicians who are disgruntled by the lack of information they receive from the group. Too often, physicians are not regularly given financial and productivity data about their practices. Talk with them to understand the types of data they want to see.
- Are they pleased with the service patients and referring doctors receive from specialists, whether in the group or independent? This is key to keeping referrals within your health system family. By asking primary care physicians for feedback, you can often identify issues that are limiting referrals to employed specialists. Your group’s physician leaders can then work with the specialists to resolve any potential issues and ultimately increase group referrals.
- How can communication with hospitalists be improved? Effective communications are a major satisfier for both patients and the physicians who are hospitalists’ customers. And tomorrow’s reimbursement shifts will require integrated care delivery and a solid relationship between these two groups. The behavioral norms for hospitalists are being developed on the fly and a focus on that development within the context of the group will pay dividends.
- How can we improve the group’s relationship with independent physicians? Employed physician networks don’t operate in a vacuum. Specialists often receive referrals from both independent and employed physicians and many hospitals still receive a large proportion of admissions from independent physicians. Therefore, managing the relationship between independent and employed physicians should be a priority for leaders of your group.
- What service lines represent growth opportunities for the group? Physicians have great insights into unserved markets, both geographically and from a specialty perspective. Tapping this knowledge and using it to help the group grow is essential.
- What operational improvements would make the group more efficient? Employed physicians should be heavily engaged in improving the practice’s operations. If not, all practice problems will be owned by the hospital/management and performance will lag. Talk to them and use their insights.
- How can we improve the physicians’ opportunity for input on the strategic and operational decisions of the group? With large employed physician groups, many physicians feel disconnected, reducing feelings of ownership and accountability. Engaging physicians through an advisory board, and defining communication responsibilities of those board members, will help with this immensely. Electronic communications can help as well. The result will be better communication and better results.