4 steps for successful hospital-physician integration

As hospitals continue their search to hire physicians--and more doctors seek employment--it's vital that hospitals integrate and engage doctors in their organizations.

Failure to fully integrate physicians can ruin the relationship and any potential benefits, Peter Angood, M.D., CEO of the American College of Physician Executives, told FierceHealthcare in an exclusive interview prior to his presentation this week at the 2014 American College of Healthcare Executives Congress in Chicago.

The problem is many organizations don't know how to bring physicians into their fold and have successful outcomes, said Angood (pictured right). There is more to integration than recruitment and getting physicians to sign a contract, he said.

Hospitals can learn from the mistakes that occurred in the early 1990s under managed care, according to Angood. At the time, healthcare organizations surged to buy up physician practices. Most of those partnerships failed, however, because institutions didn't nurture the relationships with physicians. "Unfortunately some just jumped it and didn't think it through," he said.

Successful relationships begin, Angood said, when organizations decide in advance why they want to employ and engage physicians.

"Think about why you would want to become engaged," he said. "As those are better defined, it's very important to come up with a plan so there is mutual respect, mutual collaboration and mutual performance in order for there to be success in the plan."

Physician support and engagement with the organization's culture, and physician behavior consistent with the values of the organization are key to success, he said.

He suggested the following steps to help hospitals fully integrate physicians into their organizations:

  • Obtain buy-in: Be clear about purpose, and both sides--physicians and the hospital--must communicate with each other to build confidence, trust and a shared vision.

  • Implement performance measures: It's vital to agree on good measures that will assess the overall success of the initiatives, according to Angood. Physicians will respond to meaningful measures, he said. Regularly report on these initiatives and have a platform to discuss the results so as to revise and refine the measures as necessary.

  • Offer leadership training: Allow physicians to engage with management and provide training if necessary to physicians that desire leadership advancement.  

  • Create a mutual code of conduct: This statement will encompass the shared purpose and vision for the partnership.