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Thought Leadership in Action


How Hospitals Can Improve Relationships with Physicians

Medical practice is increasingly moving toward a physician employment model. According to a survey by the Physicians Foundation, 43.7 percent of responding physicians said they were employed by a hospital or medical group in 2012; in 2016, 57.9 percent said they were.

As the health care working environment evolves, the relationships hospitals have with these employed physicians also need to shift.  “Prioritizing efforts that restore and improve the joy in practice is key for hospitals to gain a competitive advantage to successfully recruit and retain physicians,” says Shanna Kirshenblatt, an innovation consulting associate at Chicago-based Healthbox, a health care innovation platform.

Here’s how hospitals can improve their relationships with physicians.

Highlight Your Mission

Health care is meaningful work, and that appeals to physicians, says Christian Nielson, principal consultant at DecisionWise, an employee engagement platform. A clear mission can help physicians connect the work they do with the impact they have on people’s lives and the success of the organization. “Anything that distracts from that meaning or impact lessens their experience and lowers their engagement,” Nielson says. Some of these distractions may include office politics, compensation issues or inadequate tools to do their best work.

“Emphasize the ‘why,’ ” recommends Turnage — why your organization does things the way it does, why it’s in the business of health care, why organizational leaders chose the mission they did. “Help physicians see past productivity metrics and connect to the mission behind their work and the people they serve,” she says. Doing so can keep physicians engaged and supportive of processes and policies and help them provide better care.

Find Ways to Empower Physicians

The physician employment model has meant physicians have had to give up some autonomy and learn how to be managed as employees — and that can be a challenge. “Much of the friction I see between health care organizations and their physician employees stems from a lack of understanding of each other’s agenda,” Nielson says. It’s important that HR leaders are willing to validate concerns and engage in dialogue with physicians to keep them engaged, Nielson says.

Ensure they have a voice in the decisions that affect them, says Kim Turnage, senior co-leader at Talent Plus, a talent assessment company in Lincoln, Nebraska. “Cultivate positive, personalized relationships with physicians,” she says. “Make them feel significant as human beings, not just as service providers.”

Ease the Workload With Technology

Health care organizations are increasingly using technology to engage and educate employees — but when it comes to providing technology tools for physicians, the reason behind using the tools needs to be crystal clear, Nielson says. “Physicians need to quickly see how a particular tool will enhance their ability to provide care and why the benefits justify disrupting their current approach,” he says. Again, highlighting the “why” is key.

Physicians are protective of their time, Kirshenblatt says, so highlighting the benefits of reduced administrative burdens or streamlined communication are effective ways to get them on board with new technology. They’ll want to see that the technology you’re implementing works as intended and simplifies processes rather than adding to them.


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