Communicating with Providers and Practices is an Art Form

Congratulations! You’ve successfully identified the key issues that are adding to the spend in your Provider Organization. You have crunched all the numbers, analyzed all the data, and you have some great ideas and initiatives to implement that will enable you to achieve shared savings and help your providers make more money. You’re confident that all your beneficiaries will also receive higher quality care. Great…now how are you going to get everyone else on board? I wish it were as easy as saying, “Hey! Look! I have the answer right here!” Unfortunately, that scenario is pretty rare.

SOME OF THE CHALLENGES

Communication is arguably the most important piece of the care puzzle because an inability to convey information means that all the effort you just put into analytics and initiatives is wasted. It’s important to remember that you’re dealing with providers who have their own challenges that they’re facing on a daily basis. The majority of them don’t want anything that looks or feels like piling on more work lest you add to their physician burnout rates. Physician burnout has become a popular buzzword as of late, and the American Medical Association states that 47% of family medicine practitioners, and 46% of internal medicine practitioners, are fighting burnout. The leading cause of burnout is “too many bureaucratic tasks” (Berg, 2018).  

On top of the extra bureaucratic tasks, please keep in mind that providers often don’t have a lot of time to just sit down and chat. Think of these added challenges.

  • Patients are in the waiting room complaining that any wait time above 30 minutes is excruciating, yet when they’re in the exam room they want to take up more of the provider’s time than what is allotted for their appointment.
  • Support staff (whether administrative or clinical) have to take unplanned days off due to their own personal emergencies, and maybe on the day you want to speak with someone the office is short staffed.
  • Pharmaceutical representatives are stopping by daily, hoping to catch the ear of a provider.

If a physician does have 5 minutes to breathe there’s a real possibility that they may be either hiding in their office to catch up on charting or trying to grab something to eat (hopefully out of sight from other patients because it’s not unheard of for patients to walk right up to the provider to ask about a new ailment while he/she is in a vulnerable position). These are all very real scenarios that happen on a regular basis, so for the average practice, where’s the extra time available to talk to their Provider Organization administrator?

THE SOLUTION

The trick is a five-part approach which I have devised from experience:

  1. Schedule quarterly meetings in advance, and away from the office if possible. This allows the provider(s) you need to speak with to put the date on their calendar well ahead of time. It cuts down on the last-minute chaos from getting in the way, and by moving the meeting off-site you curb the potential for interruptions by both patients and employees.
  2. Know the population health champion and make it a point to know the team members at each practice. If you can’t get to a physician or medical director, it’s your job to find out who will advocate practicing good population health.
  3. Have concrete, visible data to show them and to leave behind. At the end of the day it’s patient outcomes that your providers care about. That’s why they got into this business in the first place. Also, consider that you’re speaking with people that attended medical school, which means they’re used to looking for evidence to back up every theory they come across. Charts, graphs, and other graphical representations of your facts always help with easier data digestion.
  4. Know the story, but get to the point. If you don’t have the context pertaining to the topic you’re discussing, anything you say is going to be lost in translation. Make sure your message is memorable because even if you have your provider’s ear, you may only ever get about 70% of their attention.
  5. Leave them with a game plan to ensure Continual Process Improvement (CPI). Actionable lists are key for this. As an example, if a practice is low on Annual Wellness Visit (AWVs) completions, then give them a list of the patients that need AWVs over the next few months (which is something that can be done in the Salient Healthcare Dashboards). Come ready with a plan on how the provider(s) can implement the changes that you want made. Don’t make them have to figure out how to rework their practice to achieve your goals. At the end of the day, you’re partners. You’re a team. You wouldn’t hang your teammate out to dry, right? This is also a great opportunity to set expectations for the next meeting.

Relationships are the key to any business, so make sure you know your providers backwards and forwards. What are their regular office hours? What is their personal schedule like? Do they have a spouse and/or kids? All of these things will help you accomplish your goal of communicating the value of your data.

Doctor and businessman

The last piece of advice I want to give is to just remember that this is about them. It’s not about you. Sure, you want the results, but this is about changing the way your providers practice. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish, and the pain has to be worth it for your providers.

As a Provider Organization, if you’re willing to go above and beyond to help your providers win, they’ll buy-in to your ideas and changes. Keep in mind, change is best done in stages. The old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” applies here. 5% change over a period of time is absolutely doable. 50% might be intimidating. In the end, you’re both there to help change healthcare for the better, so don’t forget that you’re on the same side.

RESOURCES

Ryan Mackman

About the Author


Ryan Mackman, MBA, MHA - Business Consultant

Ryan Mackman has been an ACO business consultant team member with Salient since March 2018. In this role, he acts as a solution trainer, marketing and sales consultant, as well as Value Based Payment strategist. His skillset helps augment Salient’s efforts at the ACO and physician practice level. Prior to joining Salient, Mr. Mackman spent four years as the Business Administrator and Project Manager for Premier Family Health, a Level 3 Patient Centered Medical Home near West Palm Beach, FL. Mr. Mackman holds a Master’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Health Administration from Florida Atlantic University. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. He currently holds a Six Sigma Green Belt Certification and is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

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