Prescription for Change

Physician Thinks Tanks: The meeting your physicians won't want to miss

by Sarah Evans and Serena Bernthal-Jones

Editor's note: This story was updated on May 8, 2019.

Involving physicians in your organization's decision-making process is a powerful physician engagement driver—and a must-do step to achieve your strategic priorities.

But it can be logistically challenging to involve physicians in strategic decisions at the right time and in the right way. As a result, organizations often wait too long to bring physicians into the process, limiting their input and fueling frustration with administration.

So what's the right way to involve your physicians in strategic decision-making? Keep reading to learn one key best practice—and then join our upcoming webconference, "Why doctors don't attend your meetings — and how to change their minds," for more actionable ideas.

Looking for more ways to make your meetings physician friendly? Join the webconference on March 20.

Solicit actionable feedback through 'Physician Think Tanks'

Several organizations have instituted Physician Think Tanks, or recurring forums for collaborative brainstorming, to gather strategic-level input from a large group of physicians. Capital Region Medical Center, for example, holds annual physician think tanks as part of their strategic planning process. Other organizations, like Edward-Elmhurst Health, convene these forums every quarter, with a focus on the most pressing strategic issue at the moment.

Three must-dos to make your Physician Think Tanks a success

Regardless of how frequently you schedule think tanks, there are three things you should do to ensure the meeting is a success.

1. Recruit a representative group of physicians

Aim to recruit 30-50 physician leaders from across your organization. This group should represent all specialties and employment types, pulling in informal leaders or frontline physicians where no formal leadership roles exist.

Implementation Tip: To get this practice off the ground, consider repurposing a standing meeting instead of creating a new forum.

2. Use the bulk of the meeting for facilitated brainstorming

Dedicate the majority of the forum to open discussion with physicians. To facilitate brainstorming, seat physicians in groups of six to eight along with a C-suite executive to take notes and answer questions. Set a clear expectation with your physicians that their critique and pushback is welcome—and crucial—for identifying potential holes or challenges with existing plans.

Implementation Tip: To guide the conversation, give participants copies of relevant materials, such as the previous year's strategic plan, SWOT analysis, or HCAHPS scores.

3. Close the loop with the broader medical staff

Within one week of your think tank, share a summary of the discussion and clear next steps—both with physician participants and the larger medical staff. This ensures that physicians feel heard and holds leaders accountable to action.

Implementation Tip: Use the first five minutes of each forum to share how you put the group's feedback into action since the last session.

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