How Healthy Are Your Physician Relationships?

How would your medical staff rate your health system as a partner? Have you asked? Are you wincing just thinking about it? Physicians are your most important partner to create the best possible teams for health care service to a local community and beyond. This is a relationship that has to be tended to daily. 

Would you like to know the best way to alienate an employee, physician partner, heck anyone? Mess with their dough. And how does that typically happen? Don’t pay them on-time. Make it hard to get paid, and tie the check up in accounts payable. When a hospital creates a contract with a physician for their work, both clinical and administrative, the physician needs to know how they are getting paid, what needs to occur for them to get paid and that everything will happen on-time. Ask yourself: is this happening right now in our hospital environment? If it’s not, you need to make a change.

Start by doing an inventory of your current physician relationships. The physicians you employ directly; the physicians who conduct research; the physicians who you partner with for on call coverage or provide leadership for your OB clinic? This is often represented by good old-fashion paper and stuck in an administrator’s hall closet or put in electronic file warehouses. Neither of these options treat the contract as an “alive” agreement that can determine how your physician partner sees your health system.

Does the physician know what the agreement says, what is expected of them? Physicians typically are swamped; flying through an agreement or even a compensation plan is the norm. Not because they don’t care or it’s not important; it’s just another “to do” item on the physician’s never-ending list of daily tasks. Make it easy for both hospitals and physicians to access their contract; reference how they get paid and what they are supposed to be accomplishing in the context of the agreement.

At Ludi, we review thousands of physician agreements every year. In our consulting work, we create client documents that outline the types of agreements and the money spent on the agreement with a specific physician or group. And our biggest a-ha from this extensive work is this: hospital-physician relationships need to be tended to continuously to reap the benefits and create a strong working partnership. Having easy access to your physician contracts and a clear view of the data within those contracts is the key anchor to continuously managing these ongoing relationships. And while the data can be an archeological dig, the effort here in identifying these processes and streamlining them can go a long way in sustaining the happiness of your most critical partner: the doctors themselves.

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