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By Sheila Biggs and Dan Schlacter


We wanted to know why.

Why do physicians at investor-owned and publicly traded provider organizations have higher levels of trust in their leaders than those at not-for-profits, according to a recent national survey by Jarrard Inc.?

As a broad generalization, physicians are mission-oriented people, working to care for the vulnerable. Why would feelings of trust and support markedly change simply based on their employer’s business model?  And how do these findings impact partnership strategies and overall performance for physician driven businesses?

The answers to these big questions offer valuable insight that leaders can use to enhance physician recruitment and ongoing engagement while creating targeted communications that can have a positive impact on acquisitions integrations.

The Data

Percent of physicians who say they have a lot or a great deal of trust that “The leaders of my organization are honest and transparent.”

Physicians at Investor-Owned Organizations

Physicians at Not-for-Profit Organizations

Business partners, not cogs.

Physicians, according to the survey, want more visibility into the finances and operations of the organization. They want to understand how their day-to-day efforts impact the business.

And, since growth and financial performance depend on physicians, it’s smart to involve them in the conversation. This enables physicians to understand exactly where the organization is heading and why, provides context for specific operational goals and clarifies how the business of healthcare connects to the mission of patient care. That level of transparency and ongoing two-way conversations between executive leadership and physicians breed trust.

Trust in leadership may also be higher among physicians at investor-owned organizations because physicians employed by these groups often have an equity stake and hold leadership roles. There can be no gap between physicians and leaders because the business model doesn’t allow for it, and those two groups are often one and the same.

Even for physicians who aren’t part of the leadership team, the increased visibility all clinicians have creates both a sense of and an operational imperative for shared responsibility. Alignment towards a clear, shared goal fosters culture and buy-in.

The lesson? Recognize physicians’ desire to be involved and credit them for their unique point-of-view that translates to business insight, and, importantly, performance. It’s important to develop communications plans and structure from the get-go. Then provide clinicians with the information they want and then empower them to learn the business side and get involved.  Again, they’re viewed as business partners, not cogs.


How do PE-backed healthcare organizations optimize this trust?

Involving physicians in the day-to-day conversation is obvious and relatively easy – when it’s baked into the culture. But what about during acquisitions and integration where new physicians are joining an existing platform?

Entering a partnership and bringing a physician practice into the fold is complex and can be fraught. The response of and involvement by physicians themselves can be the difference between a smooth integration and one with conflict, reputation damage and even a clinician exodus.

It’s vital for MSOs and national specialty groups looking to recruit new physician practices to have comprehensive post-acquisition integration toolkits to ensure a smooth transition. The Jarrard survey confirms that physicians place the most trust in fellow physicians and their immediate colleagues. They tend to feel more loyalty to their team than their organization.

Don’t underestimate the power of peer influence. Throughout any partnership integration process, physicians will be talking to their network, sharing the good and the bad. Once the deal is closed, they’ll continue to talk about what’s happening as their practice begins working within the structure of the larger organization.

For the national groups bringing in those practices, paving the way for a smooth integration through clear communications and engagement increased the odds that the new physicians will be talking about the good business sense the deal made and how easy it was. Then, once integration is complete, that steady-state engagement takes hold and physician satisfaction stays high.

Need proof? Consider a recent case study from Jarrard Inc.’s files.

A national specialty MSO was heavily recruiting independent practices as the organization pursued its growth goals. Leadership had committed to being a physician-led organization with physicians at every level of leadership. As such, they wanted physicians engaged in every part of the partnership process – before, during and after acquisition and integration.

The MSO effectively shaped the organization, including its brand, in a way that appealed to potential physician partners. Armed with a strategic communications plan for recruiting physicians, the leadership team knew what physicians would ask or be concerned about. Equipped with talking points, the team addressed questions and pre-empted issues the moment discussions started with a new practice. In doing so, they effectively built trust.

From there, the flywheel began to spin. Physicians involved in those first few deals talked to friends, highlighting the smooth process, their involvement in the new organization, the strength of the culture, the commitment to communication – in addition to the benefits of having administrative tasks centralized while retaining control of their work and team. Those positive messages among peers opened doors for many more deals.

Of course, nothing is ever perfect. Despite best efforts, sometimes things simply don’t go according to plan. The MSO experienced this, as well. During the acquisition of one new practice, the team checked all  the business and financial boxes but dropped the ball on communications. Consequently, the integration was clunky. And the message of a bumpy ride spread, forcing the organization into damage control and implementation of a retroactive integration plan.

Reaping the rewards from cultural dividends

While there are myriad factors to successful growth, a commitment to transparency with physicians and a willingness to trust them with information that affects them outside of the clinical realm goes a long way in fostering trust and buy-in. Though potentially uncomfortable, it’s vital to give physicians the information they want, and then leave them to digest and discuss it with the people and in the way that makes the most sense for them.

It’s a matter of encouraging a sense of community, giving these key stakeholders space and not fearing what they might be saying when you’re not in the room. Give them the information, then empower them to use it.

A culture of openness and trust will help physicians thrive, using their expertise and insight to grow as clinicians and innovate on behalf of the organization. The dividends will compound, accelerating growth, increasing recruitment and retention, and, most importantly, advancing the mission of caring for patients.

Looking to enhance your physician engagement or prepare for a smooth integration? We can help. Get in touch using the form below.