On average, hospitals need to reduce costs by 5-10% in order to survive current pressures and changes. A McKinsey study shows that such cost reductions are attainable, but only when physicians are engaged in these improvement trajectories. Only then is it possible to unlock a hospital’s true potential. How to engage physicians in such a way that it benefits all involved—physicians, hospital management and patients alike?
Why engage physicians?
If physicians are left out of the equation, the rest of the organization has to achieve cost reductions on a much higher order of magnitude—30%, according to a McKinsey study. While reducing operating costs by 5-10% is a challenge, cutting costs by 30% is generally beyond reach. So physicians have to be part of the solution for any healthcare organization to survive.
What difference does physician engagement make?
1. Physicians are at the core of any healthcare system
Physicians’ engagement shows that improvement activities are taken seriously by leadership. They are important role models for the rest of the organization.
If change is only supported by a dedicated performance improvement unit, it often does not have enough muscle and leverage to significantly impact a hospital’s performance. The more effective performance improvement units are those that enable busy physicians to lead innovation and improvement trajectories—that is, units that facilitate, but do not execute on behalf of others.
2. Physicians are key decision makers
Physicians’ insights and experience are essential for improving the system in such a way that it benefits patients and all others involved. Unfortunately, too often the performance data that would enable such decision making are missing. Effective decision makers have insight into patient care, patient health and cost data. The real cost of surgeons, their physician colleagues, other caretakers and administrators is often not available, hindering innovation and improvement.
Without a holistic and accurate view, it is not only difficult to make the right decisions, it is also difficult to sustain changes. If you don’t know how much better the new solution is compared to what was in place before, it is very easy to fall back into old routines and bad habits.
3. Physicians are … physicians!
Physicians are trained to treat patients, not to run hospitals or innovation or improvement trajectories. Although getting an MBA is popular among the new generation of physicians, current physician leadership often has not had management training, theoretical or otherwise.
In industry, performance improvement or quality control may be a career in itself, but if you expect physicians to engage in these roles you cannot expect their 100% dedication, let alone a full-time commitment. Instead of trying to turn them into six sigma specialists, it may be more effective to acquaint them with the methodology so that they can lead, but don’t have to gather the necessary data or carry out all the complicated analyses themselves.
Acknowledge that their time is a scarce resource, and make sure you utilize it to the fullest by providing the necessary support.
Physician engagement is a win-win-win
Engaging physicians is a win for the physicians themselves. Contrary to common belief, the McKinsey report shows that the majority of physicians are interested in being engaged in performance trajectories. By putting physicians in the driver seat, supporting their efforts and providing them with the data necessary to make sound decisions and recommendations, you can be sure that improvement trajectories will lead to the desired results. Moreover, these changes will be sustainable, with physicians becoming a role model for the rest of the organization.
Engaging physicians is also a win for hospital leadership. Together, they will be able to achieve the strategic goals set for the organization. When hospital leadership provides opportunities as well as the data physicians need to make decisions, they will get what they are looking for and need.
Finally, engaging physicians is a win for patients, the most important benefactors. Anyone who has been a patient will recognize that there are many opportunities for achieving better health and better health care at lower cost. Since physicians are committed to providing the best care possible for patients, their engagement in innovation and improvement ensures that any change is in the best interest of patients.
To get physicians and other health care providers driving innovation and improvement efforts, your organization needs a process and a framework in place to support their actions.
Organizing4Innovation specializes in getting your organization up and running when it comes to innovation. Our methodology builds on physicians’ and other health care professionals’ engagement. Interested in learning more? Please contact us for a free first consultation at info”dot”organizing4innovation”dot”com, or visit www.organizing4innovation.com for more information.
McKinsey study on Clinical Operations Excellence 2013