3 Strategies for Cultivating Hospital-Physician Relationships
Posted on Wed, Oct 12, 2016
The relationship between hospitals and physicians has always been somewhat rocky. Although both groups seem to fight the same battle on the surface, underneath they have often butted heads with one another due to economic, administrative, and power-driven conflicts.
In recent years, hospital-physician relationships have become a source of scrutiny for many hospitals. They’ve come to realize that the strain of combative interactions could affect patient care outcomes (and probably has in the past).
To keep up with recent legislation and the growing power of consumers in the healthcare industry, hospitals and physicians will need to find a way to bury the hatchet.
Meeting quality care standards is hard enough, but keeping consumers happy and following payer requirements are equally difficult tasks. To meet these challenges, hospitals and physicians must become allies.
The key to building any alliance is a common goal. A shared purpose goes a long way in binding two disparate groups—and what more powerful purpose is there than the health and welfare of a population?
The research agrees. One article featured in Frontiers of Health Services Management stated that “forming relationships that center around shared purpose and values will lay the foundation for excellence and sustainability while restoring a sense of meaning, pride, and joy to the healthcare professions.”
So how do hospital administrators and physicians build this sense of shared purpose? Below are three general strategies that should be applied in every hospital to build up stronger and more cooperative hospital-physician relationships.
Set Clear Expectations
When creating a contract with a physician, hospitals must be up front and clear about their exact expectations. This includes any performance measures, scheduling expectations, patient interaction expectations—everything.
The physician also needs to be involved in creating those expectations. Treat the relationship as a partnership. Benefits and compromises should go both ways. In no way should the contract discussion come across as the hospital dictating to the physician or vice versa.
A shared purpose means respect on both sides, and the contract creation process—as well as enforcement over time—will need to reflect that relationship.
Eliminate the Power Struggle
One common point of contention between physicians and hospitals is power. Who has it and who makes the decisions? In this case, both parties have to realize that they need each other.
Hospitals need physicians to provide quality care for the patients. Physicians need hospitals to help with administrative tasks and house more advanced equipment for patient testing and treatment. A balance can be found.
To start, hospitals need to invite physician input prior to making major decisions. Physicians should be involved in hospital operation to some extent since it does ultimately affect them and their patients.
Placing physicians in positions of power and trusting their advice would go a long way towards building mutual respect.
In any relationship, communication is vital. For hospitals and physicians, clear and open channels of communication are necessary, each serving its own unique purpose.
First, there needs to be a clear point of contact between the administration and the physician. A physician in a leadership role who is qualified to help smooth interactions between administrators and other physicians would be wise to help with conflicts that might come up.
Second, physician orders and patient health records need a clear channel for easy transmission—without the fear of those records being lost or misplaced. Programs like HealthWare’s ActiveXCHANGE can help by providing reliable document transmission.
Finally, bringing all physicians and administrators together at least once a quarter or twice a year would help to build more firm relationships. Keep it social or make it a professional networking event. Either way, getting them talking can lead to real friendships and real trust over time.
Ultimately, trust is only the starting point. When there’s trust, there’s the opportunity for true cooperation and shared purpose. Once you have that, the real work—providing consistent and high quality care for your patients—can begin.
By Ashley Choate Professional Healthcare Blog Writer