When it comes to shifting models of physician compensation, there are many considerations ,and at times, it can be difficult to decide where your focus, as a physician or a payer, should be. As we move toward value-based payment models, we might want to consider what values already exist within our healthcare organizations that will be reflective of this shift – and by supporting them, we can lead the charge to newer payment models.
As a physician, chances are you spend less time with patients than you would like to in a given day. You probably spend more time documenting then actually sitting with your patients. When it comes to time, there probably isn’t a single MD in the U.S. who feels they have enough of it. In addition to not having enough time in the work day for patients, many doctors work longer shifts in an attempt to address not only direct patient care needs, but tackle mounting administrative responsibilities. “Free time” may not be in their vocabulary. Many doctors might not realize that for some things they do out of the office, such as attending conferences, they may be able to put that time to good use personally and professionally by taking advantage of Continuing Medical Education credits.
One of the hottest words of the year in healthcare has been “quality” – individual organizations need to establish early and reassess often what quality metrics they are going to track. Depending on the size, location and demographic, some quality measures may be more of interest than others. But it’s essential that these are identified and subsequently honored as being a guiding force in clinical and administrative decision making. In deciding upon these quality measures it’s important to not only have The C-Suite on board, but medical staff “in the trenches” with patients need to have their voices heard, too.
One major area of evaluation you might be struggling with is deciding how you’re going to assess a physician’s productivity. Since this is a large component of the compensation model, everyone in the healthcare arena right now is concerned with defining productivity and evaluating the best method to measure it. Productivity can be a largely subjective term in some areas, but in healthcare there are certain measures that can be charted by survey, reviewing records and censuses and by establishing benchmarks and goals (on a local and federal level) that keep staff motivated to do their best work. Defining these productivity measures and communicating them often is a great starting place.
Measuring patient satisfaction for your healthcare system may be the single biggest indicator of progress, quality and productivity. If you are actively measuring and really looking at what your patients are telling you about your healthcare system and their experience in it, you’ll be able to identify key areas of weakness – and also celebrate your strengths- both of which matter greatly to the health, success and morale of your organization and employees. Finding out where your strengths are is just as valuable as knowing what you need to improve upon. You can tap into areas of strength to set examples, design workflows and establish some of these benchmarks mentioned earlier by looking at the components of your organization that already have it mastered- no need to reinvent the wheel!
When it comes to patient satisfaction, how do you think access rates in your organization? Do your patients feel that they have services available to them that they want and need? Would they drive a hundred miles out of their way to go to another hospital because they can get them in sooner, have more specialized care or are maybe even cleaner, friendlier or more responsive to their concerns? These are important things for your organization to consider when you’re thinking about physician compensation – if you aren’t seeing patients, no one gets paid. Without hyperbole, you want to show why your hospital is going to not just meet – but exceed the needs of your patients. You want to instill confidence in them and do everything in your power to keep that confidence while they are in the hospital receiving treatment. When they are discharged, you want your follow-up to be streamlined, helpful and supportive of your overall mission.
Remember: You want patients to come back – but, of course, only if they need to. Of course we’d love to improve community health and make our communities happier and healthier – but we also want them to know that in times of illness or injury, we’re going to give them the care they need and deserve to have. If we’re doing that then we’ll see that value-based payment models can work – as long as we do.