As a part of our work designing and implementing call pay programs at healthcare organizations, we routinely facilitate Physicians’ Call Committee meetings. Over the past thirteen years, we’ve met with with over 4,000 doctors at hospitals of all sizes in every region of the country. These meetings have taught us a lot about working with physicians and the dynamics that exist between a medical staff and its administration. We believe our insights could be applied by anyone in the healthcare industry who is searching for strategies to improve their working relationships with physicians. Here are three lessons we’ve taken away from our journey so far.
1. Data is just a starting point.
Many healthcare organizations rely heavily on data in their decision-making process. We’ve found that data, although undoubtedly important, often falls short in providing a complete picture. Insights garnered from data are most useful when combined with physicians’ insights. That’s why our process involves physicians from the very start.
When we arrive at a facility that has used call compensation survey data at the exclusion of their medical staff’s real-life experience to determine its call pay arrangements, we often encounter ballooning call pay budgets and unsatisfied doctors. Survey data cannot be ignored, but it is only a starting point. Data cannot take into consideration the unique circumstances of an organization. During our call committee meetings, representatives from every specialty taking unassigned call have an opportunity to give their peers a glimpse into the frequency and intensity of their call coverage. We’ve found that these real-life accounts add value to the discussion and result in call pay programs that are more fair and more appropriate for a particular organization.
2. Challenges strengthen your efforts.
Physicians have been trained to challenge ideas. Oftentimes, administrators see this as antagonistic, causing them to avoid physician participation in favor for the top-down decision-making that ultimately creates a culture of distrust. Therefore, in an effort to avoid conflict, administrators set themselves up for conflict down the road.
By inviting physicians to the table, we welcome an open discussion, and we want our program to be challenged by the medical staff before it’s implemented by administration. Our Call Pay Solution is flexible by design, and we gain perspective through these discussions that bears influence on the resulting program. We’ve learned to embrace challenge because it can strengthen our programs and ensure that they are fully supported by the medical staff.
3. Collaboration leads to breakthroughs.
Specialty groups are often treated as islands unto themselves. But when they come together, they can provide a more cohesive understanding of any situation. Given a platform for collaboration, they unite around common goals and become more invested in the success of organizational efforts. This leads improves physician alignment and engagement and transforms the working relationships between specialties.
During our call committee meetings, we’ve observed that specialty groups typically have an incomplete understanding of one another’s workload. This can cause a great deal of agitation around the issue of call pay. When a call pay program is not clearly and openly communicated, there is a perception of unfairness and an assumption that the specialties with the most negotiating skill and political sway will end up with all of the available call pay dollars. One of the benefits of bringing everyone to the table is that it enables us to establish a fairness standard for call pay rates that is universally understood and recognized. This would be impossible without collaboration between specialty groups.
The methods we use in the creation of effective call pay programs can be applied to a wide array of issues in healthcare. We believe physician participation and collaboration can have a transformative effect on an organization’s wellbeing, and ultimately, the continuity of care in America.
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