The top peer-to-peer physician coaching techniques

Physician coaching is all about getting doctors to reconnect with their patients. (Credit:Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Physician coaches are often called in to try and remediate problem physicians, improve performance and raise patient satisfaction scores.

But the role of a physician coach is not only to help doctors improve communication skills, but also to help them rediscover the power of connecting to patients, says Stephen Beeson, a family medicine physician, in NEJM Catalyst.

“It is important to know which factors predict coaching success and which coaching techniques work best,” said Beeson, who got his start as a coach at his medical group and has since worked with organizations across the country.

Founder of The Clinician Experience Project, Beeson says that among the predictors of success is when physicians ask for help rather than those who receive coaching in remediation. Coaching also works better when physicians take ownership of their own behavior and are willing to try a new skill in the exam room, such as narrating the physical exam to patients framed around telling them, “Here is what I am looking for.”

What works best? Beeson says coaches need to understand that issuing directives to improve patient satisfaction scores does not work. Another tip is to frame coaching around the points that physicians care about. Focus on helping physicians develop skills that generate meaningful outcomes, he says. Examples are helping to create patient trust, instill patient confidence and increase patient participation in care.

That’s the approach Novant Health, a North Carolina-based health system with more than 1,500 physicians, is taking to combat physician burnout, as FierceHealthcare has reported. The health system has developed a physician-resiliency program, which offers physicians three coaching sessions to help them remember why they decided to practice medicine in the first place.

And Hawaii Pacific Health, a nonprofit network of hospitals, clinics, physicians and care providers, saw its overall performance on physician communication scores on patient surveys improve dramatically after it used a standardized checklist and a coaching program to improve doctors’ communication skills.