At the Margins

'It's not my fault!': Four tips for talking to physicians about performance

We all know that sharing performance data with physicians can lead to meaningful documentation improvement. But what do you do when your physicians don’t want to listen?

When approached with performance data, physicians may respond with anything from full acceptance to flat-out denial—as we know firsthand from conversations with physicians through our Physician Documentation Initiative.

Regardless of physicians' initial responses, we've also seen how slight tweaks to your messaging make a difference in ensuring your physicians buy in to improving their performance data.

Most reactions, both positive and negative, fall into one of four categories. Here’s how to frame your conversations with physicians for each.

'That can't be right.'

Think about the last time someone told you something you didn’t want to hear. More often than not, your first instinct was probably to deny it. When you share performance data with your physicians, it’s natural for them to be somewhat skeptical, or even resistant. We often hear, "That can’t be my data."

To get your physicians to trust the numbers, share information from their actual cases. Help them understand where the numbers are coming from, so they’re more likely to trust you—and the data.

'Why are you looking into my work?'

We also encounter physicians who feel threatened or defensive when asked to discuss their performance data.

If a physician questions why you’re looking into performance, make it clear that you're there to educate, not to judge. Frame the discussion so that the physician sees it as an opportunity to improve, rather than an investigation into past work. After all, that’s exactly what it is: a chance to learn and to get better.

'But it's not my fault!'

It's not uncommon for physicians to rationalize what they see and try to place the blame elsewhere. We often hear objections along the lines of "Sure, my length of stay is long, but it’s necessary for high quality."

When you hear this type of response from your physicians, it’s critical to stay on message. Reassure them that you value the care they provide, but you still need their help to tighten up performance in specific areas.

'Tell me more!'

Finally, there are the physicians who are ready and willing to listen. Don’t overlook these folks in favor of targeting your loudest objectors. Educating this eager group will have an immediate impact.

When speaking with a physician who’s eager to dig into the data, seize the opportunity and get specific. Share with them exactly what they need to do to improve, and be sure to discuss progress with them on an ongoing basis.

For true evangelists, think about making them a spokesperson to promote documentation improvement among their peers. A positive attitude can be infectious.

Are you ready to support your physicians through the ICD-10 transition?

Engaging and training physicians in documentation improvement is a crucial part of your ICD-10 transition. That's why we offer support at all stages of the education process, from planning to implementation.

See all our transition services

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Could you unknowingly be a roadblock to your physicians’ success with clinical documentation? Find out if you’re standing in the way of your own improvement efforts. Read the post.