How Not to Engage Physicians: Hint, You’re Probably Doing It

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There’s no business like healthcare—and while the industry is changing, many hospital administrators are still operating in business as usual mode.  For many industry veterans, that means avoiding physician engagement efforts because they believe that doctors are never going to switch from their beloved physician preference items or because they’ve had negative interactions in the past.

But today, hospitals must simultaneously improve costs and outcomes if they want to keep their doors open—and physicians feel this sense of urgency. Why? Physicians have become much more educated in recent years on the finance side of healthcare and their role in the value equation.

As a result, they are keenly aware of the need to do more with less and understand the importance of mindful stewardship of resources, especially for medical devices which represent over 20% of hospital spend.  However, increasing physicians’ knowledge is only the first step.

Next, administrators must take the lead to develop strong partnerships with physicians.  The key to success is a new, patients-first approach, rather than the way things have always been done.

Here’s our recommendations of what NOT to do:

  • Don’t focus on price:  Unlike in the past, when physician engagement was “nice to have” for a few projects per year, the need to engage physicians is now a constant. To be successful, collaboration must be aligned around patients and value—not products or price.  In this patients-first approach, decisions are informed by clinical outcomes and linked to overall clinical improvement efforts.
  • Don’t underestimate the influence of supply chain: While physicians are the most qualified to discuss clinical outcomes and are best situated to lead peer-to-peer discussions about care delivery, supply chain still plays a vital role. Relying on physicians’ experience alone can be a recipe for disaster. That’s why supply chain really matters.  Providing objective, up-to-date, peer-reviewed literature fuels meaningful conversations and elevates the discussion from being about just devices to being about delivering the best patient care.
  • Don’t limit your options for physician champions: Organizations are most effective at aligning physicians and supply chain when there is a physician champion at the forefront who sees the big picture and is passionate about making a difference. Many administrators assume that physician champions should be executives, high-volume producers, or senior faculty members but that old-school attitude is extremely limiting. Often, the best physician champions come from an under-utilized group of early adopters who welcome new technology—if not outright change—in the traditional practice of medicine.
  • Don’t get frustrated with the journey: Change doesn’t happen overnight in any business, especially healthcare. It will take time, dedication, and patience to engage physicians in clinical spend management and develop a partnership. It will take a commitment to abandoning pre-conceived notions and go-to strategies from the past which are no longer effective. While the journey won’t be easy, it’s important and will impact patients’ lives for years to come.