Four Ways to Engage Your Healthcare Providers

May 16, 2020

You have a highly trained, hardworking and fundamentally altruistic workforce. Don’t squander it.

As a healthcare executive, you talk to a lot of healthcare professionals, and you talk to them often. But even as you talk, a nagging thought bubble may pop up, the same one that teachers, bosses and parents deal with: “Is anyone really listening?”   

To cut through the noise and get people to listen try these four tips to help motivate providers to join forces with you as partners.

1. Stick to high values.

Most people choose a career in healthcare for altruistic reasons. Ken Faber, M.D., vice president of clinical care at Grand Rounds, a San Francisco company that provides healthcare navigation services, says, “A leader who fails to link the organization’s mission to the values of their providers will fail.” Mission statements on letterhead are not enough.

2. Encourage creative thinking.

The art and science of medicine is a cliche. Even so, you don’t want healthcare providers in your organization just trudging along. You want them excited about coming up with new ideas - ideas that could improve outcomes and help control costs. Richard S. Isaacs, M.D., FACS, CEO and executive director of The Permanente Medical Group (TPMG) and president and CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, says the best way to encourage creativity is to cultivate an environment in which physicians and staff feel empowered.

Related: What Will Post-Covid Healthcare Look Like?

He is also big on JAMM, which stands for “joy and meaning in medicine.” Says Isaacs, “We are gathering data from our physicians to understand the factors that affect JAMM in their work, which means our physicians have a voice and role in designing initiatives to promote fulfilling careers at TPMG. For example, feedback from our physicians has prompted new performance measures that incentivize the reduction of clerical burden and broadened professional development opportunities across their career continuum.”

3. Streamline operations to reduce administrative burden.

Let healthcare professionals take care of patients and offload some of the administrative work to others, says Seth Cohen, CEO and co-founder of OODA Health, a healthcare technology startup in San Francisco. How do you do that? By streamlining -office operations. “That can help reduce physician burnout, ensure large systems stay competitive and encourage a focus on patient care,” he says.  

Patients often struggle to manage and pay their bills, while providers must shoulder an increasing burden of bad debt, observes Cohen. “Meanwhile,” he adds, “payers depend on this flawed system to administer benefit designs and miss a critical point of engagement with patients. This creates a perfect storm of uncoordinated communications and patient confusion, resulting in poor repayment rates.” 

4. Do a 360 before you adopt an EHR.

Improving the EHR experience will pay huge dividends in engagement  and motivation. Geeta Nayyar, M.D., chief medical officer for Greenway Health, a health information technology in Tampa, Florida, says that practices should seek out products that are customizable. 

“Before implementing any new technology, ask the right questions,” Nayyar says. “Get perspective from all departments within the practice, from the front office to the back, to ensure all needs will be met. Focus on the amount of training an EHR vendor provides because physicians who report poor training are over 3.5 times more likely to report that their EHR does not enable them to deliver quality care.”   

Stephanie Stephens is a journalist and radio and television producer and host in Orange County, California.  

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