For most doctors, according to the survey, working together means making joint decisions. More than 90% said they should be involved in “hospital governance activities such as serving on boards, being in management, and taking part in performance.”
“That didn’t surprise me at all; there’s a huge appetite for physicians to be involved in strategic governance and oversight,” Skea says. “That’s where hospitalists have been really good: taking it to that next level of strategy and leadership.”
Next to compensation, he says, governance is the biggest issue for many hospital-affiliated physicians. One wrinkle, however, is what the report’s authors heard from hospital executives. “There’s a recognition by hospital executives that they need those physicians in those governance roles,” Skea says. But the executives felt that more physicians should be trained and educated in business and financial decision-making.
Some of the training strategies, he says, are homegrown. One hospital client, for example, is providing its physicians with courses in statistical analysis, financial modeling, and change management, and referring to the educational package as “MBA in a box.” Other hospitals are steering their physicians toward outside sources of instruction. SHM’s four-day Leadership Academy (www.hospitalmedicine.org/leadership) offers another resource for hospitalists seeking more prominent roles within their institutions.
Along with a desire for more power-sharing, doctors looking to a hospital setting have clearly indicated that they expect to hold their own financially. According to the survey, 83% of doctors considering hospital employment expect to be paid as much as or more than they are currently earning.
And therein lies another potential sticking point. Based on past experience, doctors might expect that hospitals’ financial resources will still allow them to maximize their compensation. But as health reform plays out, Skea cautions, “everybody is going to have to do more with less.”
But other survey results hint at the potential for compromise. According to the report, physicians agreed that half of their compensation should be a fixed salary, while the remaining half could be based on meeting productivity, quality, patient satisfaction, and cost-of-care goals, with the potential for performance rewards. “This shows that physicians realize the health system is changing to track and reward performance and that they can influence the quality and cost of care delivery at the institutional level,” the report states.
And as for the guidelines doctors follow while delivering healthcare, 62% of those surveyed believe nationally accepted guidelines should guide the way they practice medicine; 30% prefer local guidelines.
Skea says he was a bit surprised that nearly 1 in 3 doctors are still resistant to national guidelines, though he believes that number is on the wane. After an initial pushback, he says, doctors seem to be gravitating toward the national standards, due in part to physician societies taking active roles in the discussions.
So what should hospitalists take away from all of this? Skea says they should continue to highlight and demonstrate the value they provide in standardizing care, measuring quality, and improving efficiencies in the four walls of the hospital. “They’ve had a track record, I think they have the mindset, and they’ve had the relationship with hospital executives,” he says.
Hospitalists likely will be called upon to help educate their physician colleagues in other specialties. Because of their background and history of success, Skea says, “they could be one of the real leaders and catalysts for change within an ACO or some of these other more integrated and aligned delivery models, and then move into governance.”
With a little assistance, perhaps this marriage might work after all. TH