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Reducing U.S. Healthcare Costs Means Closing the Gap in Physician Engagement and Alignment

At ACHE’s 2017 Congress on Healthcare Leadership, Richard J. Priore, ScD, FACHE, President & CEO, Excelsior HealthCare Group, presented five primary underlying causes to the rapidly rising costs of healthcare in the U.S. Three of the causes likely come as no surprise: increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, costly medical technology and increasing per capita incomes. The remaining two?  “Unwarranted practice variation, and poorly aligned physician and hospital reimbursement structures and financial incentives.”  In fact, Priore went on to share that physicians influence 14% of U.S. Healthcare GDP which, at that time, equaled $2.5 trillion.

With that kind of impact, the challenge is no longer about whether or not physician engagement, alignment and integration needs to happen within healthcare organizations, the challenge is about how. Priore suggests a significant hurdle is overcoming the “physician culture,” one that is based in the solo practice mentality, and lacking in fiscal accountability to the governing organization, while also not adhering to evidence-based guidelines. He indicated that “structure drives culture” and to reshape the physician culture, healthcare organizations need to:

  • Discover common ground with physicians and set mutually beneficial goals
  • Share power and control
  • Develop physician ownership and accountability
  • Provide a means for accurate and actionable data transparency, to ensure effective decision making can happen in a timely manner

But where does an organization start to reshape the existing physician culture? In this article posted on The Chartis Group website, co-authors Mark J. Werner, MD, CPE, FAAPL, National Director of Clinical Consulting, and Cynthia Bailey state that “Physicians must be positioned to take the lead in innovating and transforming the delivery of care to create sustainable value, improve outcomes and reduce costs.”

In addition to giving readers a view of what physician alignment and accountability should look like, they also provide a framework to help readers assess just how aligned physicians and administrative leadership are in their own organizations, based on seven “key characteristics of high-functioning alignment between a health system and its physician constituents.”

These seven characteristics include the enterprise strategy, clinical outcomes, practice operations and management, physician group economics, leadership capability, culture, and information and technology. That’s quite the list! The good news is Werner and Bailey also include a scale to help an organization identify their current strengths and opportunity areas, which can then be used to help “clarify where you are and where you want to head on your physician alignment journey…a powerful tool for leadership to define the future vision, build organizational momentum and drive change.”

More good news? Physician alignment thought leaders Mark J. Werner and Richard J. Priore will be leading a NEW seminar, Closing the Gap in Physician Engagement, Alignment and Integration in a Value-Based Environment, July 30—31 at ACHE’s New York Cluster!  This timely seminar is designed to help participants develop an individualized road map for physician-hospital engagement, alignment and integration that can put to use immediately. Register Now!

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