The delicate balance of money and physician buy-in

Karen Cheung-Larivee

 Karen Cheung-Larivee

Money talks, but who likes talking about money?

Hospital success hinges on physicians and their buy-in on organizational initiatives--whether that's reducing readmissions, improving patient satisfaction or rolling out an entirely new electronic medical record system.

But how do leaders get their attention? Point to the money stacks--or lack thereof.

Although some executives hold profits and losses close to their chests, being transparent about how the hospital is doing lets the medical staff know the successes and the improvements needed in the organization, according to Brian Harte, president of South Pointe Hospital in Warrensville Heights, Ohio.

Harte, who also is the medical director of medical business intelligence at the community hospital under Cleveland Clinic, says transparency is the key to performance management. That goes for performance data and finances.

"When I've sat down with the medical staff and shown them how we're doing and where the opportunities are to improve, they recognize that the hospital's success is their success because what's good for patients is first and foremost, in their minds, as well," Harte told FierceHealthcare in an interview.

"They also realize that what is good for the hospital from a quality standpoint is also good for the hospital from a financial standpoint and, in the long run, that's in their best interest, as well. The financial sustainability of the hospital … is in their best interest," Harte added.

Like most businesses, staff understand the overall financial success of a company means they get a paycheck every week, which allows them to continue to do what they want to do--provide care to patients.

So how do hospital leaders start or better continue the dialogue about money?

According to Harte, physician leaders can help guide that conversation, changing a potentially adversarial relationship to one of partnership.

"I don't view physicians as my customers; I view them as my partners. The patients are our customers," Harte said about the integrated delivery model at South Pointe and Cleveland Clinic. "It's an issue of reframing the conversation around what do we have in common and how can we both accomplish what our goals are. In a world of pay for performance, in a world of public reporting, in a world of increasing uncertainty and an era of payment reform, delivery reform and increasing regulation and scrutiny, we have a lot that's in common."

As one astute audience member at MGMA this week said, "Other than the gift shop, a hospital can't make any money without a physician's signature," FiercePracticeManagement reported.

It's not enough to force the Kool-aid down the medical staff's throat, they must understand they, too, wield power in the hospital's finances and performance. That's when money really matters. - Karen (@FierceHealth)