Positive, high levels of physician engagement lead to higher patient satisfaction, higher overall hospital ratings and willingness to recommend ratings on the HCAHPS survey. But just what is physician engagement? Here is one definition from the American Hospital Association: "Pronounced enthusiasm characterized by belonging, pride and loyalty which foster a mutually committed relationship between physicians and organizations resulting in the enduring pursuit of organizational goals and career enrichment."
The link between physician engagement and patient experience has been extensively studied.
Here are some key findings to physician engagement becoming critical to your patient's experience:
Engaged Physicians Tend to Communicate More Effectively With Their Patients
Communication is repeatedly shown to be one of the key drivers for a more positive patient experience. Though physicians may maintain that high-quality clinical care is more important than good communication skills, in fact, both are important. For example, strong communication skills have been documented to reduce malpractice risk and increase physician loyalty. Conversely, breakdowns in communication between patients and physicians and consequent patient dissatisfaction are critical factors leading to malpractice litigation.
Communication Skills Training Makes a Difference
Not all physicians are great communicators, and even those who are can benefit from training programs that focus on improving communication skills. The outcomes of such training benefit patients too, leading to significant improvements in patient treatment adherence and satisfaction.
Physician Engagement Leads to Better Discharge Self-Care and Medication Compliance
Satisfied patients are more apt to adhere to medication regimes when they perceive that their physician has communicated clearly regarding the reason for the medications and their potential side effects. They are also more likely to comply with after-care and follow-up visits when the perceived quality of engagement is positive.
Increased Engagement Can Lead to Lower Resource Use and Higher Satisfaction
Some critics of patient experience metrics theorize that overuse of resources is a concern due to providers seeking to raise perceived patient experience. However, data has shown that increased patient and physician engagement in medical care in fact leads to lower resource utilization in addition to increased satisfaction.
Physician Engagement is the Result of Organizational Commitment to Staff
Physicians who understand and agree on what is expected of them, who have the tools and support they need to do their job, and who learn how to show empathy and concern for patients are critical to higher patient satisfaction. Therefore, organizations seeking higher patient experience scores and better physician engagement need to do some self-examination to assess whether leadership is effectively engaged with its physician staff.
More Engaged Physicians are Better Physicians
Today's healthcare environment is changing, with new incentives and stressors for overworked physicians. Organizations that work more closely with their physicians, providing the appropriate education and support, can help them adjust more effectively to today's pressures and pay-for-performance mandates. High-performing hospitals implement sustained efforts to communicate their core goals, offer training when necessary, improve opportunities for physicians to offer input into decisions that affect them, and provide ongoing career support. They are proactive and don't just assume that their physicians will naturally adapt to a changed environment that requires higher levels of physician-patient engagement.
What does your organization do to promote higher levels of physician engagement?