Can Hospitals Heal Anemic Physician Engagement?

by Rick Blizzard, D.B.A.
Health and Healthcare Editor

Only 10% are fully engaged

Healthcare organizations have done a poor job of engaging their physicians. Few physicians are emotionally bonded and loyal to the organizations they work for, according to Gallup's 2005 physician database, which contains aggregated ratings of healthcare facilities across the country. At the 50th percentile of the database (facilities with average overall ratings), only 10% of physicians are fully engaged, while 38% are actively disengaged. That's nearly a 4-to-1 ratio of antagonists to advocates. The ratio evens out in the 90th percentile (facilities with high overall ratings), where 19% are fully engaged and 17% are actively disengaged.

What do the best organizations do differently to engage their physicians? Among the core items that Gallup uses to measure physician engagement, two show a particularly large differentiation between 50th and 90th percentile organizations in their top-box scores (the percentage of physicians rating them with a score of "5" on a scale of 1 to 5):

  • I feel proud to be a physician at _________.
  • __________ is the perfect organization for physicians like me.

The difference in physician ratings stems to some degree from the idea that in highly rated facilities physicians feel like they "fit," both from an emotional standpoint (physicians feel proud to be associated with them) and from an operational standpoint (physicians feel the organization is perfect for physicians like them).

What Can Administrators Do to Improve Engagement?

The first thing a hospital administrator can do to help physicians feel comfortable with their organization is to meet their immediate needs and expectations. In a hospital, this means establishing efficient hospital operations. Looking at the specific operational questions in the physician database, several items stand out with a large variance in ratings between 50th and 90th percentile organizations:

  • the ability to manage emergencies
  • the efficiency of the admission process
  • the quality and timeliness of radiology
  • surgical scheduling

When hospitals meet these basic expectations, they help establish a good fit for their physicians. But operational efficiency is not enough. Hospitals must also foster strong relationships between physicians and other staff members, starting at the top.

Bottom Line

Even the best healthcare organizations achieve only a 1-to-1 ratio of advocates to adversaries. In order to establish a good fit with their physicians, hospitals and other healthcare organizations need to concentrate both on creating efficient operations and on building strong relationships between physicians, administrators, and other staff members.

The A8 items are protected by copyright of The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ, 2000. All rights reserved.

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