In my last post, Collaborative Independence, I referred to physician champions without defining what I meant. Physician champions are outstanding clinicians who have earned the respect of their peers by caring for patients in a consistent and reliable fashion, delivering great clinical outcomes. They are the people we turn to when we need medical care. They are also seasoned professionals looking to leverage their knowledge and experience to improve care for their community. Possible roles for physician champions include:
- Presenting and discussing clinical data with fellow physicians
- Minimizing physician-hospital battles
- Creating a safe environment for learning
- Helping to build transparency and trust
Over the last 5 years, I have noticed an increase in hospital leaders asking physicians to present and discuss clinical data with physician colleagues. When I ask at my ACHE seminars how this process is going, they nod approvingly. However, when I ask them if they would go back to the old way of having hospital administrators present clinical data to physicians, they shake their heads vigorously, “No!” I dubbed the process, “Taking the first step,” in reference to Alcoholics Anonymous, where participants admit that they need help.
Through the process of discovery, physician champions can become owners rather than renters once they realize that people value their opinion and that they are making their time count. It is a way to leave a lasting legacy at a time in their lives when the marginal value of seeing one more patient and doing one more procedure start to diminish. For example:
- An ICU director collaborated with middle-level laboratory, nursing, and pharmacy administrators to cut the mortality rate from sepsis in half by improving the timeliness of processes during the critical hour when a patient is suspected of having a bloodstream infection
- A cardiology catheterization lab director cut costs and improved outcomes through healthy competition
- A previously skeptical nephrologist, who had avoided participation in hospital affairs for over two decades, became such a convert after serving on a medical advisory panel, that he became the first physician ever asked to serve on the hospital’s strategic planning committee; he also convinced his patients to contribute to the new hospital’s capital campaign.
The most fruitful ways to cultivate physician champions include:
- Engaging them in conversations likely to lead to results, for example:
- What is going well for you?
- What things are we doing that waste your time?
- How do you want to be remembered?
- How can I help?
- Drawing up an action plan that shows meaningful outcomes at 2-week intervals
- Reviewing progress with physicians at least monthly
- Closing the loop
- Celebrating success at least quarterly
What do you think?
As always, I welcome your input to improve healthcare collaboration.
Kenneth H. Cohn