Can we take the long view on physician strategy? 

https://mailchi.mp/d57e5f7ea9f1/the-weekly-gist-january-21-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

Editor's note: Taking the long view | Campaign US

It feels like a precarious moment in health systems’ relationships with their doctors. The pandemic has accelerated market forces already at play: mounting burnout, the retirement of Baby Boomer doctors, pressure to grow virtual care, and competition from well-funded insurers, investors and disruptors looking to build their own clinical workforces.

Many health systems have focused system strategy around deepening consumer relationships and loyalty, and quite often we’re told that physicians are roadblocks to consumer-centric offerings (problematic since doctors hold the deepest relationships with a health system’s patients).

When debriefing with a CEO after a health system board meeting, we pointed out the contrast between the strategic level of discussion of most of the meeting with the more granular dialogue around physicians, which focused on the response to a private equity overture to a local, nine-doctor orthopedics practice. It struck us that if this level of scrutiny was applied to other areas, the board would be weighing in on menu changes in food services or selecting throughput metrics for hospital operating rooms. 
 
The CEO acknowledged that while he and a small group of physician leaders have tried to focus on a long-term physician network strategy, “it has been impossible to move beyond putting out the ‘fire of the week’—when it comes to doctors, things that should be small decisions rise to crisis level, and that makes it impossible to play the long game.”

It’s obvious why this happens: decisions involving a small number of doctors can have big implications for short-term, fee-for-service profits, and for the personal incomes of the physicians involved. But if health systems are to achieve ambitious goals, they must find a way to play the long game with their doctors, enfranchising them as partners in creating strategy, and making (and following through on) tough decisions. If physician and system leaders don’t have the fortitude to do this, they’ll continue to find that doctors are a roadblock to transformation.

New campaign to thank health care workers

The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association teamed up to release a new “Forever Grateful” TV and digital ad campaign on Monday to thank health care workers.

Why it matters: The campaign comes in the face of record levels of reported health care worker burnout tied, in part, to the prolonged emergency response to COVID-19.

  • The AHA also released a new video thanking health care professionals working in America’s hospitals and health systems for their work.

In search of the “clinician strategist”

https://mailchi.mp/26f8e4c5cc02/the-weekly-gist-july-16-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

How to make figuring out what to propose simple - PropLibrary

We’ve been working with a CEO and his strategy team around their health system’s five-year strategic plan. It’s still early in development, and they’re considering some bold moves. Given that some of the ideas are disruptive, he astutely observed they needed to bring a clinical leader into the process before the strategy is fully developed, but he’s having trouble identifying the right physician to be part of the very small executive working group. 

We began listing the important attributes, creating a rough job description for a “clinician strategist”: the ability to consider clinical and operational implications but not get bogged down in details; bold, big-picture thinking and a willingness to take risks; strong communication and leadership skills.

As the list grew longer, we began to wonder if we were really telling the CEO to chase a unicorn. Some of the characteristics that typically make for an outstanding clinician—reliance on data and evidence, lower risk tolerance—might conflict with embracing disruptive change. Much of strategic decision making is about finding “80-20” compromises, while doctors often tend to get bogged down in detail (for good reason) and are quick to poke holes.

And our ideal physician strategist, out of a desire to safeguard patient care, might sometimes find that the strategy team isn’t adequately considering the ramifications for quality and safety. Finding a physician leader who also has the skills of a chief strategy officer is indeed a rare thing. It’s probably a better bet to identify early-career doctors who have the right mindset and an interest in strategy and help them develop their leadership skills over time. 

Regardless, this CEO’s instinct was correct. Bringing doctors into the strategy-setting process early is crucial, even if the perfect clinician strategist might prove difficult to find. 

Is it time to take Physicians off the Hamster Wheel?

https://mailchi.mp/bfba3731d0e6/the-weekly-gist-july-2-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

7 Smart Strategies for Paying Off Medical School Debt | Student Loan Hero

In theory, the idea of salaried compensation for employed physicians makes a lot of sense. For one thing, it’s blessedly simple, with the potential to remove the tensions that arise in shifting to value-based payment or implementing lower-cost (but lower-reimbursement) care models like telemedicine.

However, medical group leaders have long feared that productivity would tank if doctors were put on salary. (As a consulting colleague said recently, the switch to salary would cause a 20+ percent drop in productivity in the medical group, creating a challenge akin to keeping an airline profitable after removing a quarter of the seats on its planes). We’ve been expecting that more doctors might seek stable compensation models in the wake of the pandemic, and so weren’t entirely surprised when the question of moving to straight salary came up in three conversations over the past two weeks.
 
In all three cases, leaders are hoping to create more predictability, and to decrease the resources and effort needed to execute against a menu of complex plans. They believe that a move to salary is inevitable, and their questions have more to do with timing. 

Gauging when to make the move should be determined not by external market shifts, but by internal cultural and operational readiness. Are the systems in place to enable doctors to work at a high level of efficiency? And do we have the group collaboration needed to maintain high performance without paying doctors as if they are salesmen on commission?

Another wrinkle has popped up for groups who might be ready now: the past year has upended the benchmarks that groups might otherwise use to inform decisions on where to set salaries. Nevertheless, over time we expect more groups to move in this direction, with the hope of getting off the “hamster wheel” of compensation committee meetings and ever more exotic permutations of bonus plans, in search of a more stable model.

What can Whole Foods tell us about integrating telemedicine?

https://mailchi.mp/f2794551febb/the-weekly-gist-october-23-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

How Whole Foods' Suppliers Are Shifting From Shelves to Screens to Better  Sell on Amazon | Inc.com

A quick stop at the local Whole Foods Market recently yielded surprising insights into the dilemma faced by physician practices in the COVID-era telemedicine boom.

The store location opened just last year, part of a brand-new residential and shopping complex designed for busy professionals. It’s larger than the old-style, pre-Amazon era stores, and was designed to integrate Amazon’s online grocery operations into the bricks-and-mortar retail setting. There’s a portion of the store set aside for Amazon “shoppers” to receive and pack online orders for pickup and delivery, along with an expanded array of convenience-food offerings for the app-powered consumer to scan and purchase.

But when COVID hit, the volume of online orders went through the roof, and the store hired a small army of Amazon shoppers (including one of our own adult children who’s on a “gap year”) to keep up with demand. The result has been barely controlled chaos—easily 70 percent of the shoppers in the aisles last weekend were young Amazon employees “shopping” on behalf of online customers. They’re all held to an Amazon-level productivity standard, which makes the pace of their cart-pushing somewhat frantic and erratic. And the discreet area at the front of the store for managing the Amazon orders has become a noisy hub, making entering and exiting the store problematic. Even the “regular” store employees at Whole Foods have begun to complain about the disruption caused by the Amazon fulfillment operation.
 
It’s a cautionary tale for traditional physician practices and other care delivery organizations looking to “integrate” telemedicine into normal operations. Integration sounds great in theory, but in practice raises important questions:

1) What physical space should be set aside for delivering virtual care?

2) Should telemedicine work be done in a separate, centralized location, or in existing clinic space?

3) How does the staffing of clinics need to change to meet the demand for virtual care?

4) How can we flex staffing up and down based on demand for telemedicine?

5) If new staff are required, how will they be incorporated into the existing team—or should they be managed separately?

6) What operational metrics will they be held accountable for, and what impact will those metrics have on other operational goals? 

If Amazon, a worldwide leader online, renowned for running tight, precision, productivity-driven operations, is having trouble figuring out physical-virtual integration at the front end of their business, imagine how difficult these challenges will be for healthcare providers. The sooner we start to dig into these issues and find sustainable solutions, the better.

Beaumont physician survey reveals lack of confidence in leadership

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/beaumont-physician-survey-reveals-lack-of-confidence-in-leadership.html%20?utm_medium=email

Doctors' 'no confidence' petition drive targets Beaumont CEO ...

The results of a survey completed by 1,500 of Beaumont Health’s 5,000 physicians revealed a lack of confidence in the Southfield, Mich.-based system’s leadership and concern about its proposed merger with Advocate Aurora Health, according to Crain’s Detroit Business

Crain’s reported the results of the survey after the results were presented to Beaumont’s board. The system confirmed this week that it is postponing a vote on the planned merger with Advocate Aurora until physician grievances are addressed. 

The survey asked physicians to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with several statements. Seventy-six percent of the physicians who answered the survey said they strongly or somewhat disagree with the statement “I have confidence in corporate leadership,” while 13 percent said they strongly or somewhat agree and 11 percent said they neither agree nor disagree, according to Crain’s. 

Physicians were also asked about the proposed merger with Advocate Aurora, which has dual headquarters in Milwaukee and Downers Grove, Ill. According to Crain’s, 70 percent of physicians said they strongly or somewhat disagree with the following statement: “The proposed merger with Advocate Aurora Health is likely to enhance our capacity to provide compassionate, extraordinary care.” Nine percent of physicians said they somewhat or strongly agree with the statement and 21 percent said they neither agree nor disagree, according to the report. 

In a statement to Becker’s Hospital Review, Beaumont said it is working to address the physicians’ concerns.

“Our physicians provided valuable input and feedback to us through the survey,” the health system said. “We take our physicians’ responses seriously and we have already started addressing many of their concerns. We know our talented and skilled physicians, nurses and staff have helped to make Beaumont the region’s leading health system and they are also key to our future. Our caregivers truly live our mission of providing compassionate, extraordinary care, every day. We recognize the importance of having an open dialogue. That’s why we continue to meet with numerous groups of physicians, nurses and staff to listen to them, address their concerns and work together with them to determine the best path forward for Beaumont.” 

Beaumont and Advocate Aurora signed a nonbinding letter of intent in June to create a health system spanning Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. The merger would create a $17 billion system with 36 hospitals. 

 

 

 

 

A brewing physician-health system disconnect

https://mailchi.mp/7d224399ddcb/the-weekly-gist-july-3-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

Addressing The Consumer-First Disconnect - B&T

We’re hearing from medical groups around the country that in the past few weeks, office visit volumes have quickly approached pre-COVID levels. Some are even busier, running at 110 percent of their February volumes, or more. At the same time, practice has become more stressful, with doctors balancing virtual care with in-person visits, new safety procedures slowing operations, and staff and patients worried about COVID exposure. Everything feels different, and irrespective of the number of patients on today’s schedule, all of the changes make a physician feel like she’s working harder than before.

A chief clinical officer from a Midwestern health system relayed the discord this has created when discussing incentives: “Our doctors were fully on board with the need to reduce salaries back in April, so we all took a 15 percent pay cut through the summer. Now that they’re busy again, they want to be bumped back to 100 percent. But the system’s financial picture hasn’t changed.

The growing disconnect between how hard many staff are working and the economic reality of the system isn’t unique to doctors. But physicians, most of whom have their compensation tied to individual productivity, may feel it more acutely. While there are no easy solutions, it’s critical to discuss this disconnect openly, rather than letting resentment fester under the surface.

The pandemic has brought to light the brittleness of health system and physician practice finances. Prescient systems will use this moment to work with their doctors to rethink practice and align compensation with the financial success of the system, while meeting doctors’ needs for stability and security.

 

 

Facing a reckoning on physician compensation?

https://mailchi.mp/f4f55b3dcfb3/the-weekly-gist-may-15-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

Doctor salaries have shot up 30% in past decade over fears of ...

As health systems take tentative steps to resume non-emergent procedures and office visits, it’s increasingly clear that volume will not quickly return to pre-COVID levels. According to a health system chief physician executive we spoke with this week, this has forced medical group leadership to reevaluate physician compensation, at least for the rest of 2020.

“We’ve kept our doctors pretty much whole for the past three months,” she said, “but given the losses we’re facing for the rest of the year, we can’t keep it up much longer.” We’ve had a flurry of calls in the past two weeks with systems in the same position. Most of their doctors are primarily paid based on their productivity. “We all loved the upside opportunity,” mused one physician leader, “but we never thought something could happen that would completely wipe us out.”

This point got us wondering whether we might be seeing the beginning of the end of RVU-based physician compensation, as physicians seek greater stability and safety. But moving to a salary-driven model is far from easy. How much upside are doctors willing to trade off for security? The survey data used to benchmark compensation, based on last year’s business model, is essentially irrelevant—and likely will be for next year as well. According to one consultant, “Given that there’s no consistency in volume or compensation strategy, the 2020 data will be garbage, too.” Not to mention, dramatically shifting the way doctors are paid has huge cultural and operational ramifications.

There are no easy answers, but we think this conversation about the future of compensation, and the larger issues it raises about doctors’ relationship to, and role in, the health system, is long overdue. One executive shared his system’s plan to pay their doctors 85 percent of their 2019 compensation through the summer. He’s not sure yet what the other side of August looks like. “Maybe we’ll have physicians who want to continue to be paid on productivity like a car salesman. But if you want that kind of upside now, the safety net likely won’t be there the next time.” However, he hopes this experience “provides a reset point that gets us to a more sustainable—and professional—way of working together for the future.”  

 

 

 

 

New England Journal of Medicine publishes letter from doctor explaining how FBI and DHS almost grabbed the medical masks his hospital was buying

New England Journal of Medicine publishes letter from doctor explaining how FBI and DHS almost grabbed the medical masks his hospital was buying

New England Journal of Medicine publishes letter from doctor ...

The New England Journal of Medicine has begun a new series called “Covid-19 Notes,” which is focusing on the innovative responses to the dealing with the coronavirus. On Friday, the journal published a letter about acquiring N95 masks written by Dr. Andrew W. Artenstein, M.D., of Baystate Health in Springfield, Massachusetts. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

As a chief physician executive, I rarely get involved in my health system’s supply-chain activities. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed that. Protecting our caregivers is essential so that these talented professionals can safely provide compassionate care to our patients. Yet we continue to be stymied by a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the cavalry does not appear to be coming.

Our supply-chain group has worked around the clock to secure gowns, gloves, face masks, goggles, face shields, and N95 respirators. These employees have adapted to a new normal, exploring every lead, no matter how unusual. Deals, some bizarre and convoluted, and many involving large sums of money, have dissolved at the last minute when we were outbid or outmuscled, sometimes by the federal government. Then we got lucky, but getting the supplies was not easy. […]

Hours before our planned departure, we were told to expect only a quarter of our original order. We went anyway, since we desperately needed any supplies we could get. Upon arrival, we were jubilant to see pallets of KN95 respirators and face masks being unloaded. We opened several boxes, examined their contents, and hoped that this random sample would be representative of the entire shipment. Before we could send the funds by wire transfer, two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrived, showed their badges, and started questioning me. No, this shipment was not headed for resale or the black market. The agents checked my credentials, and I tried to convince them that the shipment of PPE was bound for hospitals. After receiving my assurances and hearing about our health system’s urgent needs, the agents let the boxes of equipment be released and loaded into the trucks. But I was soon shocked to learn that the Department of Homeland Security was still considering redirecting our PPE. Only some quick calls leading to intervention by our congressional representative prevented its seizure. I remained nervous and worried on the long drive back, feelings that did not abate until midnight, when I received the call that the PPE shipment was secured at our warehouse.

It would be nice to have federal leadership that doesn’t make acquiring essential medical equipment seem more like buying a heroin shipment.

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2010025?query=featured_coronavirus