In the first two installments of my own list of attributes that are important underpinnings of successful hospitalist groups, I covered group culture and decision making, recruiting, the importance of a written policy and procedure manual and performance dashboard, and roles for advanced practice clinicians. I’ll continue numbering from last month and complete the list in this column.
7. Clear Reporting Relationships
Most hospitalists are employed by one entity, usually a hospital subcorporation or staffing company, yet in many respects they report to someone else, such as a hospital CMO. For many, this can feel like serving two masters.
As an example, a hospitalist is employed by St. Excellence Medical Group (SEMG), a subsidiary of St. Excellence Hospital. Yet the hospital CMO is the key person establishing hospitalist performance targets, mediating disagreements between hospitalists and cardiologists, etc. So the hospitalists and CMO might jointly make plans for changes in the hospitalist practice that have staffing or budgetary implications only to find that the SEMG president resists spending more on the hospitalist program. For some hospitalist groups, this problem of being stuck between two masters can be a real barrier to getting things done.
Because the employed physician group nearly always directs most of its attention to outpatient care, the hospitalists are sometimes an afterthought, sort of a like a neglected stepchild. And worse, I’ve worked with more than one organization in which the CMO and physician president of the employed physician group are engaged in a power struggle, with the hospitalist group (and other physician specialties) caught in the middle and suffering as a result.
I think the best way out of this dilemma is for the employed physician group to function as a management services organization, providing human resources (payroll, etc.) and revenue cycle functions to the hospitalist groups. But for nearly all other issues, such as policies and procedures, staffing, strategic planning, hiring and firing, etc., the lead hospitalist should report to the CMO.
8. Well-Organized Group Meetings
My experience is that nearly every hospitalist group has periodic meetings to discuss and make decisions on operational and clinical issues. But the effectiveness of the meetings varies a lot. In some cases, they’re little more than disorganized gripe sessions.
I think most groups should have monthly meetings scheduled for about an hour or a little longer. Attendance at most meetings should be the expectation; that means even those not working clinically that day should be expected to attend unless away on vacation or some other meaningful conflict. Simply not being on clinical service that day should not be a reason to miss the meeting. Attendance by phone periodically is usually fine, especially for those who would otherwise have a long drive to attend in person or have child care duties, etc.
An agenda should be circulated in advance of the meeting; minutes, afterward. The best minutes highlight any “to-do” items, including person responsible and target completion date. Tasks occurring over longer than a month should be tracked in the minutes of every meeting until resolved. All past meeting minutes should be readily accessible via a network computer drive for review by any member of the group at any time.
Although some of every meeting will typically need to be devoted to one-way communication from the group leader or others, ideally in every meeting meaningful time should be devoted to joint problem-solving by all in attendance to ensure all are engaged in the meetings and find them useful. Some one-way communication (e.g., regular reports of performance data) typically can be distributed via email and other means rather than devoting meeting time to review it.