Five Tips to Achieve Physician Alignment and Physician Engagement

Healthcare providers are continually challenged to create a state of Zen between the fee-for-service model with the ever-changing and developing risk-based payment models. One of the keys for succeeding in this volatile landscape is the development of a physician alignment strategy that meets the needs of today, while being flexible enough to meet industry changes as they occur. Further, these strategies must comply with government regulations, such as Stark Law and Anti-kickback statutes.

A common theme in many physician alignment strategies is the growing need for collaboration across the continuum of care. Organizations that are fully integrated and aligned are more likely to reap the rewards under value-based models. Those that fail to collaborate and align, will face an uncertain future.

According to a survey published in HealthLeaders magazine, 67% of respondents indicated that maximizing financial performance was the top business objective following their organization’s physician alignment strategy. It was also noted that the response for maximizing financial performance was inversely correlated with the organization’s size—based on net patient revenue, 72% of smaller organizations; 64% of medium and 56% of large organizations.

A Changing Physician Landscape

A growing number of physician practices are consolidating and more individual physicians are joining health systems. Less than half of US physicians or 47% own their practices. Although consolidation is not really new, the reason behind it is: the need to improve patient outcomes while reducing costs. This emphasis on value and affordability is a marked difference from prior years and is causing many health systems to rethink how they work with physicians.

Physician Alignment Objectives

With nearly a 50/50 split of independent and employed physicians, healthcare organizations often struggle with creating alignment strategies that provide incentives to both. According to the HealthLeaders Media Physician-Hospital Alignment Survey, the most difficult aspects of aligning physicians are physician engagement (24%), securing physicians to lead care transformation (15%) and physician compensation expectations (14%).

Providers are using a variety of strategies to encourage physician engagement and create cultural change. As health systems shift their focus from volume to value, in parallel, they should address quality, affordability and revenue objectives. Collaboration, and the sharing of clinical data and cost savings with physicians are key to a successful physician alignment and engagement program. Also important is the need to surround physicians with resources for care management, quality improvement and operational efficiencies, and align compensation approaches and quality metrics.  Two strategies that reap little in physician alignment or physician engagement include offering physician’s leadership roles or fiscal training. Neither appear to generate much physician interest.

A Winning Combination for Physician Alignment  

To strengthen the alignment between a hospital and employed or independent physicians, ensure your strategic planning strategy includes these five key ingredients:

  1. Collaborate. This is extremely important to include the physicians in the overall strategy and the development of the key performance indicators. Listen to their point-of-view, their concerns, their approach. By doing so, you make the physicians a partner in the success of the initiative.
  2. Data-Driven Decisions. Intuition is nice, but data rules. Make sure you provide objective data as the basis for all decisions. Optimal is a combination of clinical data and financial data so all team members have a 360o view. Measure incremental progress and share successes with the entire team. Demonstrate the correlation between quality care and lower costs.
  3. Tie Compensation to Performance. Make the cultural changes worth the effort for physicians—both clinically and financially. Enhancing patient outcomes is primary to any physician. Creating best practices and protocols that improve patient care, while reducing costs and then sharing the cost savings with the physicians providing the care is definitely a win-win. (Note: Just ensure any financial incentive is within the constraints of the provisions of the government Stark Law. Healthcare consultants can ensure regulatory compliance with proper contract language and periodic audits.)
  4. Transparency. This runs hand-in-hand with all . By sharing all information with all parties, the team builds trust and accountability is shared by all.
  5. Technology Tools. Invest in technology that is timely, reliable and actionable. Physicians have a tendency to distrust data. However, physicians when data is delivered in real-time, accompanied by reliable benchmarks and goals and incorporated in workflow, it is more positively viewed and used. Consider leveraging a healthcare data analytics tool to measure where you are now and where you want to be. Both the hospital and physicians can use data analytics to measure quality and cost improvements that impact clinical and financial performance. In addition, provide a timekeeping and compliance app to record physician time as part of the initiative. A mobile physician timekeeping app can save time, money and significantly reduce compliance risk for both the hospital and the physician. By providing the right technology tools physicians need, hospitals can increase the odds of achieving greater success.

It cannot be over stated how important partnering with physicians is to the success of any physician alignment or physician engagement strategy. Ensuring compliance, quality improvement, and operational efficiencies is a work in progress. For some health systems, this may involve additional investments in people, resources and technology, as noted above. To prioritize these investments, health systems should partner with physicians to evaluate current operational and clinical needs and their organization’s position compared to leading industry practices. Crafting an effective physician alignment strategy requires a thorough evaluation of the hospital’s operating model, market presence, and clinical and support capabilities, as well as procedural review that goes beyond compensation.

Get Some Good Advice

Engaging a healthcare consulting firm can be a wise move when looking to implement physician alignment strategies. Healthcare consulting can help avoid wrong turns, dead ends and of course, the rabbit hole of government physician contract compliance issues. Dynafios has successfully implemented hundreds of physician alignment programs to the delight of both health systems and physicians—employed and independent. We have a long history of enhancing patient outcomes and improving financial performance. Unlike most healthcare consulting companies, Dynafios takes 90 days or less to initiate a collaborative, transparent and data-driven physician alignment program that includes technology tools your physicians will love. It’s what makes us different—and effective.

Give us a call for a no obligation consultation on how physician alignment or physician engagement can change your organization for the better. See why we’re #1 in helping reshape healthcare. Call 877.858.3282 or email info(at)dynafios.com.

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