Practice Notes

The 'Three C's' of successful physician engagement

Tiffany Chan

Talk to any experienced medical group executive, and the first thing you’ll hear is: “employment doesn’t equal engagement.” Even longstanding medical groups often struggle to achieve the cultural and strategic alignment necessary for driving system change.

In a study of over 25 progressive medical groups, we uncovered three important levers for securing physician engagement: communication, competition, and compensation. Below, we detail each of the "Three C's."

1. Communication: Develop two-way communication channels to establish trust

Medical groups should strive to provide comprehensive updates on all of the group’s activities through a variety of communication channels. These messages should explain to providers the role they play in broader, system- and group-level strategies, as well as demonstrate how they benefit from those strategies.

Transparency enables leaders to build both awareness and trust throughout the medical group, while effective communication empowers physicians and staff to provide upward feedback.

2. Competition: Leverage transparent performance data to motivate behavior change

A simple way to motivate physicians to improve performance on medical group priorities is to allow direct peer comparison. Some groups are even releasing completely unblinded physician data, enabling public comparison between physicians.

Our research suggests that physicians may not be as opposed to data transparency as medical group leaders assume, particularly as incentives shift to reward network-wide efficiency. For example, physicians at Covenant Health Partners were the ones who requested unblinded performance data to identify new opportunities to maximize shared savings.

3. Compensation: Use financial incentives sparingly

"You can’t buy ‘buy-in,’” one administrator told us. However, we have identified three situations in which medical groups should use compensation:

  • To inflect behavior change when other compensation levers have failed
  • To signal the importance of a particular initiative
  • To remove barriers preventing physicians from achieving group goals

Next, Check Out These Resources

Is your group in the process of restructuring your compensation model to reflect changing strategic priorities? Read our recent post for several resources on developing strategy-aligned physician compensation plans.


For case studies of how progressive organizations are using these tactics to drive physician engagement, read the Health Care Advisory Board's study, “The High-Performance Medical Group.”


Learn More

For more guidance on engaging your physician workforce, please join our partners at the Physician Engagement Initiative for their upcoming webconference.


Looking for ways to engage constituencies beyond your physicians? Our new study offers strategies for designing advanced practitioner (AP) clinical roles, strengthening physician-AP collaboration, and more.


Subscribe to this blog

Download The Study

Realizing Full Value of the Care Team

Related Posts from Practice Notes

Member asks: How can I align physician compensation with group incentives?

A compensation plan designed for faculty physicians

Interested in Membership?

Learn more about the Medical Group Strategy Council and how we can help your organization. Contact us.