Healthcare and the practice of medicine are changing dramatically on multiple fronts. Discussion of these challenges was a focus of physicians and other thought-leaders gathered in Las Vegas for the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL).

Many physicians struggle with a deluge of change driven by healthcare reform, payer demands, documentation of quality, and a myriad of other business and operational adjustments. Unfortunately, often there is no correlation between a physician’s clinical skill and his or her emotional ability to live in times of change. This situation puts our physicians’ morale and professional satisfaction, as well as overall performance, at risk.

Strong physician engagement is so important that hospital and health system CEOs recently elevated it to the most promising means of improving performance, according to The Advisory Board Company’s Annual Health Care CEO survey. All physicians are inherently leaders in healthcare, and there is no doubt that the physician’s attitude impacts the drive of their entire team.

At the conference, Robert Turngren, MD, MBA, President of Meriter Medical Group, gave an impactful presentation, in which he discussed what attributes are required of the modern physician to adapt to new expectations around technology, customer service, and system goals.

The modern physician, defined

  • Views healthcare as a team sport
  • Embraces and masters clinical informatics
  • Is comfortable with measurement of patient experience and leads the effort to improve it
  • Understands that their daily work must drive the business outcome
  • Learns how to function well in a large corporate organization. As an employee, the physician understands budgets, HR policies, and corporate chain of command
  • Possesses high emotional intelligence, including:
    • the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others
    • being self-aware and self-regulating

A better understanding of these qualities is critical to large and small organizations, as they consider how to recruit, retain, and grow physicians of the future. A key challenge is that many of these attributes are different than our historic measures of success.

Issues to ponder

  • Can you assess an individual’s current and/or future aptitude for each attribute? In most cases, yes.
  • Can we help physicians to improve in any or all of these categories? Definitely.
  • Can we incorporate formal training into medical education curriculum? It already has begun.

Continuing the discussion of these issues is essential to both individual physicians and their organizations. What I learned from eighteen years of using principles of quality improvement is that the real problem usually is not with hard-working individual physicians, but rather is within the system in which they are working. A perfect storm of interest exists with decision-makers.

We need to support our physicians to adapt to a changing environment. What can you do to support the evolution of the modern physician?

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