As essential components of employed physician networks, Physician Advisory Councils enhance organizational performance by promoting:

  • Active physician involvement,
  • Effective two-way communication, and
  • Physician leadership development for the network.

Council Composition

Ideal Physician Advisory Council membership composition varies according to the employed physician network’s size and complexity. Provider membership should be relatively inclusive to:

  • Achieve the broadest input during Council deliberations; and
  • Effect the greatest buy-in for the Council’s decisions.

Membership should be representative of the network’s specialty mix; geographic locations; provider ages/generations, experience levels and gender; and advanced practitioner mix. Also worth consideration: including a key member of newly-acquired practices. However, the Council’s size must balance inclusiveness with a workable decision-making process.

Most Councils are jointly led by the administrative and medical director dyad. Other administrative team members are usually involved on an ad hoc basis, although some systems include certain positions as standing members.

Membership Selection Process

Main considerations for selecting Council members include:

  • Personal characteristics;
  • Council composition; and
  • For younger physicians, whether they have leadership potential that can be developed through Council membership.

Approach desirable candidates with the option to join the Council and explain the expectations associated with participation. Indicate the reasons the specific candidate is desirable for Council membership – and be honest.

If the individual chooses to be involved, orient him/her to Council operating processes, current issues being considered, and recent history/actions prior to the first meeting. Consider designating an existing Council member to assist with the onboarding and assimilation process to ensure a smooth, favorable introduction to Council function.

Membership Expectations and Ground Rules

All Council members should be informed of and embrace membership expectations and ground rules. Consider adopting the following guidelines:

Members must:

  • Assume a fiduciary duty to the system and to peers. Membership does not represent an opportunity to advocate or pursue private agendas.
  • Exhibit respect for all those involved (directly or indirectly) in the process.
  • Attend faithfully.
  • Actively prepare for and participate in meetings.
  • Serve as an information conduit to and from peers.
  • Champion Council-approved projects and initiatives.
  • Openly discuss opinions during meetings but rally behind the final decision.
  • Leave what is said in the meeting at the meeting.

Council Functions

Once established, the Physician Advisory Council provides a valuable forum to:

  • Solicit strategic and tactical input from direct care providers. Early, ongoing physician involvement in the strategic planning process predicts more positive results. By presenting a strategic plan tangentially or after the fact, you’re facing a more difficult, uphill battle. The plan will not be as well developed, received, or implemented as one developed with active provider input throughout the process. The same principle applies to initiative implementation.
  • Review practice performance. Established operational (financial, productivity, and efficiency), clinical quality, patient safety, and patient satisfaction metrics should be reviewed through a dashboard format on a regularly-scheduled basis. This provides the council with the opportunity to replicate positive practices and identify potential areas for improvement.
  • Present potential new initiatives. The Council is an excellent place to vet proposed initiatives arising from management or the practices.
  • Promote physician “ownership” of practice function and initiatives. Abdicating this important responsibility will result in subpar performance.
  • Educate and groom future physician leaders. Council membership introduces prospective physician leaders to the hospital/health system’s perspective and strategic objectives. It promotes a collective rather than an individual focus.

Terrence R. McWilliams, MD, FAAFP

Chief Clinical Officer and Managing Director, Employed Provider Networks