MGMA16: Like it or not, clinicians are in the persuasion business

Daniel H. Pink

SAN FRANCISCO--While healthcare professionals might not think they have much in common with car salesmen, that’s not the case today, according to author Daniel H. Pink, who opened the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) meeting in San Francisco Monday morning.

“Like it or not, we’re all in the persuasion, sales and influence business now. And we’re operating in a remade landscape,” Pink, who has authored books on The New York Times best-seller list about the changing world of work, told the MGMA audience.

Whether it’s practice managers trying to convince workforce members to complete a job they might not be enthusiastic about or physicians trying to convince patients to change their bad health habits, most everyone spends a good portion of their workday in the business of persuading, influencing and cajoling, Pink said. A study of 7,000 workers, found most people spend 40 percent of their day engaged in such activity. As one physician told Pink, “I have to talk people into doing some fairly unpleasant things.”

One of the most important qualities in healthcare is attunement or the ability to get out of your own head, see the other person’s perspective and build common ground, Pink says.

“If you want to persuade someone, make it easy for them to do it,” he says, rather than focusing on changing a person’s mind. For instance, rather than preaching to your workforce that they should eat healthier foods, get rid of the vending machines and put out a bowl of fruit in the breakroom.

Pink's message was an important one for physician practices, says Hallee Fischer-Wright, M.D., MGMA's president and CEO.

"Part of Daniel Pink's presentation was the idea that we think we know what other people want . . .  but we actually never ask them," she says.

Physicians and practices need to actually ask their patients what they want, and most do. A MGMA survey released Monday showed that 85 percent of practices conduct patient satisfaction surveys and more than 70 percent of those conduct them at least monthly.