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Perspectives

Physician alignment and activation

Driving balanced clinical and financial success

To truly transform the delivery of health care, systems and physicians should together take steps toward the issue-driven and evidence-based world of physician activation.

The catalyst for physician alignment and activation

Future success for health care systems will likely depend on physicians not only successfully adapting to evolving health care regulatory and practice requirements, but also learning how to succeed in this new world.

To address these changes, "physician alignment" has become a common term used by administrators, payers, thought leaders, and physicians alike to describe the activities seeking to generate physician buy-in and to motivate behavior change.

Demonstrating just how pervasive this term is in health care today, a web search of "physician alignment" will result in millions of results. Despite widespread adoption of this terminology, tackling the critical changes facing health care organizations today will likely require much more than physicians simply getting in line with health care system priorities. Instead, they should be active contributors in shaping priorities and setting direction.

To activate physicians as leaders in change, health care system leadership and physicians should acknowledge that:
  • Physician behaviors are conditioned into their professional persona
  • Physician behavioral biases may have unintended impacts on business outcomes
  • An evidence-based approach to behavior change may be required to activate physicians to drive clinical and financial success in health systems

A case for change

Developing a case for change that articulates why transformation must occur to achieve desired clinical and business outcomes and associated implementation plans may seem easy to tackle in theory. However, anyone who has ever tried to change a habit—whether that be on the individual level or on a team/organizational level—knows that there is nothing easy about changing the way in which people behave and operate. Reconditioning habits and creating new routines requires the efforts of an action-oriented, intentional change management approach, and strategy.

Activating physicians, whether they are employed or affiliated, to be owners and drivers of change while fundamentally evolving the way that work is done is a hefty task. It's well documented that approximately 70 percent of all change efforts fail. This can be attributed to focusing on the tactical and forgetting that getting humans—even extraordinary physicians—to work differently is very difficult.

In order to successfully change habits, new routines should be developed that allow all those impacted by changes in the ecosystem—including physicians—to achieve the same or improved outcome (reward) when presented with the same situation (cue).

The path forward

So, how does an organization make this work? There's no one-size-fits-all approach because each organization and the people within it are different.

However, the following elements should be foundational to activating physicians as agents of change: 
  • Involve physicians early and often
  • Diagnose with data
  • Verify the behavior
  • Develop the case for change
  • Make change stick
  • Monitor progress of change

Activating the physician workforce requires a shared vision and strategy and new, collaborative, and inclusive ways of working. Through an approach that's grounded in the science of human behavior, health care systems and physicians have the opportunity to achieve new breakthroughs in transforming health care delivery and securing a competitive marketplace advantage.

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