Jack of All Trades

Listen to Your Doctor: 10 Strategies for Physician Engagement

physician engagement

Physician engagement is essential to drive change within a health system. And yet, while hospital systems need to engage physicians now more than ever, doctors and clinicians are increasingly difficult to reach through traditional means of communication.

Therefore, communicators should approach physician engagement as a strategic campaign rather than a task to accomplish “on the fly.”

10 Physician Engagement Strategies

Here are ten tools we have seen health systems successfully use to increase physician engagement:

  1. Even in this digital age, physicians still consider face-to-face interaction with colleagues the most credible source of information. Therefore, include peer-to-peer communication, especially regarding important topics, as part of your strategy.
  2. Consistently arm physician leaders with the tools they need to communicate with their peers. Keep the tool format simple: headlines and bullets with a short summary paragraph. Remember, very few people are natural business communicators; it’s a skill they must learn. Provide communications training to underscore your physicians’ roles as liaisons and articulate the need for leaders to cascade information.
  3. Find physician champions who aren’t part of the formal physician leadership structure. Keep them up-to-date so that can share information with others.
  4. Don’t lump physicians into one large group. Segment them when possible. Independent-employed. Primary care-specialist. Members of each group want and need different information.
  5. Bring all stakeholders to the table. Increasing physician engagement is a team effort, not the responsibility of the communications department. To do it right, mobilize senior leadership, physician executives, communication staff, physician liaisons, nurses, etc.
  6. Use the right tool. Clearly define which tool will be used for which kind of messages, and stick to the plan religiously. Don’t give in to the random request, “Can you send out a quick email to physicians?” Send only the most important information through “push” channels like email and on the EHR. Put other information on “passive” channels, like a physician portal.
  7. Focus on the message. Content trumps the tool you’re using to deliver it, especially if we want the physician to take action. Answer the questions from the physician perspective: “What’s in it for me?” and “What do you want me to do with this information?”
  8. Fix email. Email can still be an effective tool if it’s used correctly. Create a communication compact with physician: “We commit to send only relevant and important messages via email. In return, you agree to 1) provide the email address you prefer and 2) to regularly check and respond to emails.”
  9. Create “one source of truth” that will house and organize all information. Physicians should be able to access the tool however is most convenient to them, whether at home, at work or on the go.
  10. Physicians are accustomed to having some say and do not respond well to one-way, top-down messages. Involve physicians in decision-making and provide avenues for them to provide feedback.

Finally, don’t assume these best practices will work for your organization. Ask your physicians about the information they need to hear and how they want to hear it. Taking the time to conduct an assessment will pay dividends for you in the long run.

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