We need business acumen in healthcare. And we demand clinical expertise in healthcare. Each of these functional silos and every silo supporting these two fundamental areas delivers operational efficiency through strong working relationships and trust – within the groups. But across groups, communication and achievement of organizational goals can be challenging, because silos may become focused on singular objectives. The result? the value and quality of patient care are compromised. Realistically, silos can’t be eliminated. We need skilled experts working together in groups. What we can focus on, however, is creating environments that facilitate a connection between silos. With healthcare environments increasingly focused on finding the best path for delivering care effectively, integrating doctors in the decision-making process is critical to success.
Doctors Want to Partner in Decision-Making
Results from Bain & Company’s 2017 U.S. Front Line of Healthcare survey show doctors understand the challenges associated with rising clinical care and prescription drug costs. But many feel excluded from decisions about how to control costs, improve performance or deal with new reimbursement models. The absence of information about the clinical implications, return on investment and potential administrative burdens of change makes doctors reluctant to accept new direction.
Involving Doctors in Decision-Making
These suggested activities can help doctors get involved in decision-making.
Collaborate on and Communicate Statements of Purpose
Work with a cross-functional team to create a holistic goal that focuses on patient care and demands group participation to deliver it. Having leaders, including doctors, clearly and consistently communicate this goal will reinforce it throughout the organization. Since most of us are visual learners, think about sharing goals, updating progress, and sending reminders using visual media set up in a public workspace or on the organization’s intranet.
Encourage Participation in Strategic Planning
Knock down the misperception that doctors lack business skills by including them in strategic planning sessions. Choose thought-leaders whose clinical skills are respected by their colleagues, which will facilitate acceptance of strategies by others on the medical team. And rotate participation to bring fresh insights – both clinical and business.
Share Data About Economic Value of Change
While doctors will focus on the clinical benefits of change, their data-savviness and experience with modeling gives them the skills needed to also assess economics. Consider enhancing data systems (or building data systems) to allow doctors to see how decisions will affect processes like length of stay. Giving doctors tools to evaluate potential clinical changes helps them become more informed about the financial impact and value of change. Doctors will be more likely to partner in the adoption and roll-out of potential changes if they can validate outcomes before implementation.
Solicit Input Before Implementing Cost-Savings
For doctors, delivering value for patients is a guiding principle. This lens is an important perspective when prioritizing organizational initiatives. Vendor consolidation, for example, may become a lower priority than care-management teams when doctors are included in priority-setting.
Support Continued Medical Education
Doctors surveyed by Bain & Company placed high value on continuing medical education as a source of information. Building their expertise through conferences and giving them access to online information and educational materials equips doctors to bring their best ideas and counsel to the decision-making process about drugs, medical equipment, and clinical care.
Create Forums for Communication
Although we feel time-constrained, a key element of connecting silos and involving doctors in decision-making is establishing opportunities to share and learn across groups. Setting up meetings to discuss top initiatives, holding ‘lunch-and-learn’ training or information sessions with time for Q&A, and establishing open door policies will foster better communication across your organization. Importantly, encouraging siloed groups to learn about each other and share perspectives will foster respect and trust.
Striving for Improved Healthcare
Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and J.P. Morgan recently announced a joint venture to improve healthcare and reduce patient cost for employees. Although specific plans haven’t been announced yet, the new organization plans to look for technological solutions to deliver “simplified, high-quality and transparent” healthcare. The collaboration has sparked discussions about how this team will affect the healthcare industry and is viewed by some as a sign of continued frustration with the current system. Many healthcare organizations are proactively looking for ways to improve. Strengthening operating models and sharing best practices can contribute to the overall push for change – and could serve as a starting point for this new corporate partnership.
Partnering with your doctors in decision-making ensures they are aligned with your mission. Their engagement in the process will make them more likely to support it with others. Ultimately, involving doctors in strategic, financial and operational decisions will improve healthcare.