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An emotional connection with a patient can be just as important as an accurate diagnosis. This connection can make or break the patient experience. Though individual providers take the Hippocratic Oath, its provisions on warmth, sympathy, and humanity are a road map for improving overall culture. That’s especially true when a healthcare business includes remote teams across multiple time zones.

We’ve compiled seven doctor engagement activities to build a team culture that drives higher quality of care, thereby improving the patient experience

1. Leverage Provider Leadership to Unify a Large Business

Unifying culture is challenging in a large organization with multiple clinics. In this case, it’s often the providers that establish localized culture for patient centricity and engagement (more so than the senior leadership team). So, it’s important to make sure your providers are engaged, supported by, and aligned with the rest of the organization. Building culture through physician engagement strategies and physician leadership can unlock clinics’ potential, improving patient care and patient satisfaction.

Invite providers to join medical staff meetings to get updates on the business. Keep them informed on new initiatives on patient care and reasoning to make sure providers are in alignment with leadership and the rest of the organization. Give providers the opportunity to understand (and sometimes challenge) the “why” behind new programs.

2. Spot Industry Trends to Fill the Customer Service Gap

Providers are often the ones with their finger on the pulse of the industry. They go to conferences on their clinical focus. They hear patients express frustrations. Take advantage of providers’ insight. Let your doctors, nurses and other providers help articulate your organization’s definition of customer service in healthcare.

For a case study in customer service, check out Optometry Times’ story about how one eye doctor noticed the trend of declining same-day service offerings—and decided to move his practice in the opposite direction. Frederick A. Frost, OD put together an action plan that involved revamping lab services, stocking different lenses and frames, and other strategic operational steps. His action plan triggered a chain reaction of referrals and new patients, recouping his investment in six months.

“Customer service is a great strategy to implement these days because many businesses deliver poor customer service,” wrote Dr. Frost.

3. Engage Providers from the Start, then Automate

Providers are the front line of service delivery with your patients, so establish provider engagement as a priority from the beginning — that is, during the interview process. The providers you hire must be open to creating great relationships with patients and other members of your practice. Set clear engagement expectations and communicate them to potential hires so that providers understand your priorities before being brought on board.

After onboarding, keep providers in the loop through continuous feedback. You may already know how to measure patient satisfaction in healthcare, but an equally important piece is knowing how to distribute insights to your staff — especially when you struggle with how to manage teams in different locations. To tackle this issue, Experity’s Calibrater Health solution uses artificial intelligence to mine text survey feedback. Actionable items are then automatically assigned to physicians, nurses, and other employees for timely follow-up.

4. Avoid Burnout by Understanding Providers’ Needs

Healthcare is highly competitive today, especially in areas such as urgent care, eye care, behavioral health, and dentistry. This competition translates into an increasing importance of effective consumer relations in the healthcare industry. To provide the best care for each patient, focus first on the happiness and satisfaction of providers.

You’ve got your work cut out for you here. Studies show that over 50 percent of providers experience some form of burnout (a trend that is on the rise). So, commit to making their well-being critical to your organization’s long-term success. Identify your providers’ preferences. Doing this research will not only improve your recruitment process, but also generate insight into why providers decide to stay or leave.

5. Recognize the Positive and Minimize the Weight of the Negative

While negative feedback must be delivered, positive feedback is crucial in boosting morale and keeping providers engaged. It also increases productivity and decreases burnout. So how do you accentuate the positive? By letting your patient experience tools do the heavy lifting.

Let your software handle the delivery of feedback on problem areas — and give your providers and staff a chance to turn their performance around before you ever have to sit down with them.

This approach means you can share patient feedback with your providers as much and as often as necessary, without it having to come from your site manager. Continuous automated feedback, backed by real-time evidence, creates the foundation for better dialogue with your providers. And it means that your one-on-one meetings with providers can be more focused on getting their feedback, rather than delivering yours.

6. Align Providers and Staff with the Leadership Team

Now that you’ve changed the conversation during one-on-ones, these meetings can become a source for insight — and an opportunity to deliver corporate strategy. Take advantage of this opportunity!

Bring providers into the conversation when it comes to the company mission and roadmap. As business leaders, you already know why patient experience is important, and your providers may benefit from your perspective. When your leadership team and providers are aligned on these fronts, it’s much easier to set and achieve company goals.

Patient experience surveys, coupled with provider insight, should be used to create an action plan. In healthcare businesses where these action plans are top-down, providers may be less likely to buy into them. A NEJM Catalyst article outlined how some institutions use patient satisfaction survey data to drive meaningful and substantive change. Some examples include reducing noise levels in the clinical setting by providing patients with “quiet kits” that include earplugs and calming activities. When your doctors have real-time access to patient data and your conversations are more positive, doctors can be a big part of developing action plans to implement strategic goals.

7. Connect the Dots Between Patient Experience and Health Outcomes

In our original research, we found that providers sometimes feel that business owners care more about patient experience than the provision of quality, evidence-based medical care. While the role of physician engagement in quality improvement may be obvious to you, your providers might have trouble connecting the dots between patient satisfaction scores and outcomes.

So, talk to them about how these goals fit together. To get the conversation going, we couldn’t put it better than this AHRQ article on patient experience:

A positive patient experience is an important goal in its own right. Moreover, substantial evidence points to a positive association between various aspects of patient experience, such as good communication between providers and patients, and several important health care processes and outcomes. These processes and outcomes include patient adherence to medical advice, better clinical outcomes, improved patient safety practices, and lower utilization of unnecessary health care services.

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