Practice Notes

The 12 statements that define your physicians' engagement

by Bill Hudec

“Mean bosses could have killed my father.”

That’s the opening salvo from Christine Porath’s article in The New York Times. She attributes her father’s hospitalization to work-related stress brought on by two uncivil bosses. And it’s no surprise that disrespect, insensitive interactions, and lack of openness to input can negatively impact employee health, performance, and engagement.

Employee engagement, specifically that of your employed physicians, has been on the minds of many medical group executives recently. In light of Porath’s article, it’s worth taking a deeper look at what physician’s bosses are doing to help or hinder their performance and engagement.

Our colleagues with Advisory Board Survey Solutions released the findings of their Physician Engagement Survey, and they concluded that there are twelve top engagement drivers for employed physicians. That is, a physician’s agreement with any one of the twelve statements you see listed below is closely correlated with that physician’s overall engagement with the medical group. Let’s take a closer look at these drivers.

Top drivers for employed providers

1. I would recommend this organization to a friend or relative to receive care.
2. The actions of this organization's executive team reflect the goals and priorities of participating clinicians.
3. This organization supports my professional development.
4. This organization is open and responsive to my input.
5. This organization provides excellent service to patients.
6. I am interested in physician leadership opportunities at this organization.
7. This organization is well prepared to meet the challenges of the next decade.
8. Over the past year I have not been asked by this organization to do anything that would compromise my values.
9. This organization provides excellent clinical care to patients.
10. This organization supports the economic growth and success of my individual practice.
11. This organization supports my desired work-life balance.
12. I have the right amount of autonomy in managing my individual practice.

You may notice a theme–many of the drivers on the list cluster around themes of autonomy and input in decision-making. Interestingly, a separate survey from 2013 of more than 28,000 providers found that both autonomy and decision input are also meaningfully correlated with exhaustion and depersonalization, proxy measures for burnout.

The (not-so-surprising) key to physician engagement

Porath’s article comes to a similar conclusion. Uncivil workplaces with disrespectful superiors intrude on employee voice and autonomy; and when that happens, employees are less likely to contribute productively to the organization’s mission and more likely to perform their jobs poorly. Unfortunately, there are some very real business implications here. Consumers–or in our case, patients–are less likely to patronize businesses that have rude employees, even if rudeness is directed at a colleague.

Physician engagement

Alternatively, physicians whose input is respected and sought after can be powerful allies for our businesses. Medical group leaders need physician buy-in to deliver on a number of strategic imperatives, such as access expansion, EMR implementation, and group financial sustainability. As one administrator told us, “Physicians are some of the most loyal people on the planet…If you allow physicians to help in a real way, they’ll solve problems. If you control them, they’ll fight you every step of the way.”

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these drivers and identified actionable strategies that groups have deployed to mitigate physician burnout by respecting autonomy and cultivating meaningful voice in organizational decision-making. Attend our upcoming national meeting to learn more.

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