Only 1 in 5 Physicians Qualify as ‘Engaged’

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athenahealth, Inc., a provider of network-enabled services and mobile applications for healthcare providers nationwide, published results from a survey conducted through Epocrates, a mobile medical app for physicians. According to a press release from athenahealth, survey results, which include insight from more than 2,000 physicians, reveal new insight on physician engagement and physicians’ perception of leadership prowess across the U.S. healthcare industry.

“At a time when morale among physicians is low—recent research has shown that 50% of physicians would not recommend doctoring as a profession, and burnout mounts—46% of physicians reported being burned out last year—we thought a sentiment exploration amongst our national network of thousands of physicians could provide valuable insight into the overall health of healthcare,” said Jessica Sweeney-Platt, executive director for physician performance research at athenahealth.

Key findings include:

  • A significant lack of engagement among physicians, with only 20% of respondents meeting the criteria for engagement.
  • Leadership structure plays a critical role in engagement: 32% of physicians who perceive that their organizations are led by other physicians are engaged, compared to 8% for those stating their organization isn’t physician-led.
  • Ownership also seems to play a role: physician-owned medical groups generated 32% engagement compared with only 17% and 14% for medical groups owned by health systems, and hospitals, respectively.

Survey results reveal three primary drivers of engagement:

  1. Satisfaction with leadership: While less than half of physicians are satisfied or very satisfied with leadership overall, 74% of engaged physicians reported being very satisfied with leadership. Specifically, physicians look for high-quality physician leaders who communicate, empathize and demonstrate a high level of expertise.
  2. Trust between physicians and non-physician executives: Trust in leadership, and a belief that the organization follows through on its commitments were both highly correlated with physician engagement.  According to additional athenahealth research, trust between physicians and non-physician executives erodes when there is a lack of communication. Over one-third of respondents noted communication skills are a necessary attribute of a strong leader. Physicians not only want transparency from the top down, they want a two-way feedback loop that ensures their voices at the front line are heard by those setting the organization’s strategic direction. Physicians trust leaders who clearly articulate an organization’s vision and develop a plan to support this vision, without sacrificing employee satisfaction.
  3. Intentional workplace design: When physicians feel that they have a workplace environment that enables them to focus on what they do best – deliver high-quality care to patients – they are engaged at almost four times the level of the physician sample overall. Aligning workplace design with physician workflows optimizes performance, reduces burnout and improves the quality of patient care. Additionally, creating an environment of collegiality among physicians enhances peer-to-peer relationships, improves communication with patients, strengthens the referral networks, and leads to a more engaged workforce.
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