• CEOs Offer Successful Strategies for Clinical Alignment

    Apr 16, 2012

    Building trust with physicians isn't always easy, but many healthcare executives agree that a successful business relationship can drive positive clinical and financial outcomes.

    Achieving clinical alignment between hospitals and physicians-and achieving improved care, fewer readmissions, and lower costs-is the core motivation for CEOs continuing to improve relationships with physicians.

    Yet for many CEOs, establishing a relationship of trust with physicians-key to building strong alignment-remains an ongoing struggle. "The best way I know to build better relationships with physicians is to have one-on-one personal relationships with them, and then live up to what you said you would do," says Guy Wiebking, president and CEO, Provena Health, Mokena, Ill.

    Approaches for Achieving Alignment

    CEOs are using a variety of approaches to actualize physician alignment. For some organizations, physician employment has been the key to strengthening clinical alignment.

    "I don't have the time, energy, or dollars to play nice with doctors who are not stakeholders," says William Atkinson, PhD, president and CEO, WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Raleigh, N.C. "However, I've been really struck by the speed with which the doctors we've employed-without any real proof that we can help them in their lives-come to trust us. It didn't take much."

    Another approach is the Mayo Clinic's "dyad model," in which practicing and administrative physicians are paired to make best practice care delivery decisions. "We use the Mayo dyad model to create what I call 'healthy friction,'" says Bryan Mills, president and CEO, Community Health Network, Indianapolis. "We have to emphasize in that pairing that it's not one physician solely looking at things operationally and one looking at things solely clinically. They have to work together."

    Obstacles to Overcome

    Structuring business relationships with physicians-employed or otherwise-can be complicated, and CEOs are employing ways to protect their organizations' interests within these structures. One CEO mentioned that his organization's physician contracts now include a contingency clause that protects the hospital if a bundled payment model is put in place. "We need to be careful not to make deals that physicians can bail out of," says Atkinson.

    Hospital executives also acknowledged that IT must support better connections between hospitals, physicians, and patients. "We've invested in an electronic health record that we use in both the hospital and in physician offices. We don't see any way to do what we're trying to do with data if hospitals aren't using the same platform as the physicians," says Ray Thompson, executive vice president and COO, Trinity Mother Frances Health System, Tyler, Texas. "A seamless, data-driven delivery system is the way we will create long-term alignment and value."

    This article is excerpted with permission from the following resource: Frost Hennagir, J., Leading Through Transformation: Top Healthcare CEOs' Perspectives on the Future of Healthcare, Huron Healthcare, Chicago, 2012.