Manage Physician Satisfaction, or Else

Market forces are driving hospitals and physicians to partner for survival, and like all partnerships, these relationships require attention. The Jackson Group’s research, and research reported in JAMA and other journals, reflects the complicated factors that lead to physician satisfaction, which include:

1.  Income and other financial aspects of the practice or the employer
2.  Relationships with administrators, other professionals, and patients
3.  Market environment: including medical malpractice, managed care, and government regulation
4.  Practice environment: size, type of patients, location, structure and makeup of the practice
5.   Autonomy
6.   Level and structure of the organization’s physician/hospital alignment initiatives

CEO Questions.
The Jackson Group works with hospitals to measure and improve these interactions. Client CEOs repeatedly ask a number of questions related to the physician’s interaction with the hospital:

•  If physicians become dissatisfied, will they continue to use us as their primary facility?
•  How is physician satisfaction related to quality of care, and staff/patient satisfaction?
•  Do physicians have patient safety concerns related to hospital staff, facility or equipment?
•  How do our physicians want to be involved?
•  What are their priorities for new equipment, technology, and services?
•  How can we best monitor ongoing physician satisfaction and manage our relationships?

These questions and the six satisfiers above are taking on extra importance, as the physician/hospital relationship is evolving. Today’s CEO needs to continue to worry about the hospital’s interaction with physician as a customer, but he/she also must be concerned about the interactions as an employer and partner, as well.

Survey Process.
The nuts and bolts of the survey process are complicated. But a great deal of value is added at the beginning with the survey design. That design must be related to the organizational culture, which is assessed as a part of the survey design process. It must also address the CEO questions above. A detailed description of the six-step survey process can be obtained at www.healthcarestrategygroup.com/thought-leadership/articles/

Survey Follow-up.
Health care organizations frequently gain insight from surveys that help them answer perplexing questions. In addition to the CEO questions above, client hospitals have gained a greater understanding of the following:

1.  How do physicians prefer to receive communication?
2.  What departments satisfy physicians with their communication, response time, etc.?
3.  What services are referred out of the organization’s service area?
4.  What steps can the organization take to strengthen its physician relationships?

But after insight is gained, action must be taken. Survey process steps five and six focus on the follow-up action process. Step five relates to the communication of the results. And step six is where real results are created: use of the data.

When working with the physicians, you must:

•  Plan follow-up actions
•  Communicate those action plans, emphasizing that they are based on survey findings
•  Incorporate survey findings into the organization’s planning cycle
•  Set clear objectives with metrics and measures
•  Ensure management accountability for survey-related results and actionable items

Without these steps the effort will be both a waste of time and money.

Ongoing surveys.
In addition to the formal survey process, we recommend that hospitals take advantage of their physician portals to conduct mini surveys/polls on issues that may impact physicians, as those issues arise. Issues might relate to proposed changes at the hospital, new technology, the local community, national healthcare reform, or the level of integration and acceptance of new programs and services.  In fact, mini-surveys, if used well, are an excellent strategy for not only growing avenues of communication but also building relationships.

For more information, call call Libby Frei, Director, Business Development, at 800-554-0373 or email lfrei@thejacksongroup.com. The Jackson Group specializes in physician, employee, and patient satisfaction surveying and management consulting.